Briefings and Debriefings


In recent weeks, ICAS members have been involved in two safety events involving more than one aircraft. The first involved a near miss between two aircraft in holding behind the crowd. Initial reports suggest that the second involved non-briefed formation which resulted in a midair collision and a fatality (in non-waivered airspace at a local fly-in). In the first instance, the near mid-air collision on Sunday followed problems on Saturday that were not subsequently discussed and de-conflicted before the show on Saturday. The second, if initial reports are correct, resulted from one pilot attempting to join up to fly in formation with no prior briefing.

Both of these events were preventable and should never have occurred. Both simply required talking to each other. We are more likely to brief than debrief. And we are least likely to debrief if things go well.

Formation teams do one of the best jobs of debriefing. Or at least they should. Do not discount debriefing your single ship demo and absolutely debrief when you share airspace with another aircraft. It only takes a few minutes but you might learn that while you thought everything went perfectly well, the other pilot is swearing he or she will never fly with you again. We learn as much — if not more — from the debriefing than we do from the actual practice.

Another lesson from the first incident: don’t be afraid to speak up. Multiple people recognized a problem on Saturday, but didn’t say anything about it following the Saturday performance or during the Sunday pre-show briefing. As a pilot or an event organizer, if you see something that makes you uncomfortable, you have both the right and the responsibility to speak up. Don’t turn your back and say, “I’m not going to watch.” Be part of the culture change. Speak up and make sure someone is listening.

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The International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) is a trade association dedicated to building and sustaining a vibrant air show industry to support its membership. To achieve this goal, ICAS demands its members operate their air show business at only the highest levels of safety, professionalism, and integrity.