The northern hemisphere has officially entered spring, and many pilots are knocking the ice off the hangar doors, putting fresh oil in their engines and preparing their airplanes for the 2013 air show season. This is definitely a great cure to the cabin fever that has set in since the ICAS Convention three and a half months ago. While you are both literally and metaphorically knocking the rust off, there are some serious things to consider while getting back into mid-season form.
Don’t become distracted. The air show industry – and all of the people in it – will be experiencing some unique challenges during the 2013 air show season. The sequester is likely to impact all of us in different ways, but it’s important to remember that these challenges can also become distractions. Commit yourself now to making safety just as important this year as it was last year. And don’t allow the business challenges you are facing to find their way into the cockpit with you.
Consider G tolerance. Some pilots have not flown in upwards of four months, but their minds are still familiar with the execution of maneuvers. This is a potentially dangerous combination. A pilot who hasn’t practiced in a few months will easily remember how to execute the maneuvers of the show, but the pilot’s G tolerance will be significantly lower than it was, due to the lack of conditioning. The biggest mistake you can make is to forget how physically demanding the high G environment is on your body. The solution: practice often, but start slow.
When you are getting back into your show shape, remember the lessons we have learned since we began our initiative to change the culture of air show safety five years ago. As just one example, we have had a significant decrease in the number of accidents at shows, but we still struggle with accidents during practice sessions.
The ground doesn’t make a distinction between a show and a practice. It will always be in the same place, and it will always produce unfavorable results should you encounter it. When practicing, you should be positive beyond equivocation that you can perform any and all maneuvers AT ALTITUDE prior to practicing your maneuvers at show level…even if they are maneuvers that you have been performing at low altitude for many years.
Remember the sacred sixty minutes. Our statistics have demonstrated that distractions have been a contributing factor in a significant percentage of accidents during the last several years. Whether practice or performance, find time to isolate yourself and focus your mind on the challenges of low level aerobatics.