As the idea of the “Sacred Sixty Minutes” has caught on, we are beginning to generate some practical experience on how to make better use of the concept and its application.
As a reminder, the “Sacred Sixty Minutes” is an hour-long period before a performer flies when he/she should be left alone to prepare himself/herself for the rigors of low-level aerobatic flying. Analysis of past accidents, incidents and near-misses indicates that distractions that occur during that very important period just before a pilot performs can be a contributing factor to accidents. To help minimize the impact of those kinds of distractions, ICAS has advocated that the entire air show community commit itself to eliminating all unnecessary interaction with performers during those crucial 60 minutes immediately preceding a performance. Along the way, here are a few things that we have learned:
- After being approached by ICAS about this issue, the FAA is revising its surveillance guidance to include specific direction to inspectors that they respect the “Sacred Sixty Minutes” and not distract pilots during the hour just before they perform.
- It is important to remember that we all need to be vigilant about respecting the “Sacred Sixty Minutes.” It is not just a distraction when somebody else distracts a pilot with something unimportant just before he performs. It’s just as much of a problem if we ourselves distract the performer with something that we consider to be important. There are not important distractions or frivolous distractions. There are just distractions…and, arguably, a more serious issue brought to the attention of a performer just before he/she flies is actually a bigger distraction than a minor issue.
- The “Sacred Sixty Minutes” is more important, not less important, when circumstances change unexpectedly. A pilot who expects to perform at 2:00 p.m. cannot be told at 12:30 that the schedule has changed and he will be expected to fly at 12:45. There are few pilots who would simply say no to this request, but the “Sacred Sixty Minutes” should still be observed, especially under these types of circumstances.
- Performers themselves must respect their own “Sacred Sixty Minutes.” Find time to be by yourself to prepare for your performance. If you don’t take some initiative to separate yourself from fans, other pilots, sponsors and/or the media while you prepare to fly, those who might distract you will be much more likely to do so. Get in your rental car. Walk out onto the ramp where there are fewer people. Put headphones on and listen to music. Give your friends, colleagues and fans some non-verbal cues and hints that you are preparing to perform and need to be left alone.
The “Sacred Sixty Minutes” is a powerful idea, but it’s only as powerful as our collective resolve to respect it and ensure that pilots have the time required to prepare for the very demanding job of flying low level aerobatics.