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Safety - Think it, Talk it, FLY it!

Working harder on flying safely and having to follow lots of rules initially seems like having to trade off a lot of our enjoyment to cover the unlikely event of an accident. But getting a couple of things in perspective and recognising some side benefits can help you (and others) see rules in a more positive light and allow you freedom from politics and more energy and focus on flying.

The philosophy of safety at flying venues might be summarised in two rules.

Rule Number 1 - People are more important than Planes.

Rule Number 2 - Be nice!

The rules of any club must be based on the above two rules in order to be accepted by the members and supported by them. If all club rules can be related to these concepts then it is difficult to mount an argument against them.

Rules are required to draw a wide line to delineate safe practices from un-safe practices and create a greater margin for error. The facts are that we are flying lethal weapons around the sky at great speed and relying on a lot of electrical and mechanical connectors and devices, there being no radio interference, our flying skills (and those of our fellow pilots) being up to scratch and the weather and luck not being against us.

Unfortunately it is only practicable to determine one standard set of rules to cover all ranges of flier - from the novice to the experienced. This is similar to when we drive along the highway, we are all subject to the same speed limits and road rules, despite the differences in our vehicles and driving skills.

So whatís the good news?

It is these rules which are significantly reducing the risk of injury to us and others and are keeping our insurance premiums down to a manageable level. They help constrain unsafe practices and mean fewer planes landing on ours (and us) and less radio frequency clashes. As a discipline, they are also a contributor to our flying skills.

It is easy to throw a plane around the sky but it soon loses its novelty value. Most pilots will wish to improve their control over their plane, firstly to be capable of handling a wide variety of conditions and secondly to be able to spend more time on the field and less in the workshop. A disciplined state of mind will help accelerate your learning.

Getting back to Rule 1 above, planes will come and go and to sacrifice the safety of a plane for the safety of a fellow flier or bystander will always be the better choice and usually the cheapest.

Rules 1 and 2 dictate that the manner in which we fly ought to be non threatening to others. However Rule 2 requires that fellow fliers be treated with respect, even when they have broken Rule 1.

There is nothing worse than an officious approach by someone telling you youíve done something wrong, especially in front of others. There is another way, with a greater chance of success. Recognise that, but for a bit of luck and/or enlightenment, that may have been you who erred. Try to win the pilot before trying to win the argument.

From a club perspective it is important that committees persevere with promotion of safety, have appropriate rules and appropriately enforce those rules without fear or favour. There is nothing like different standards applying to different pilots to undermine the safety message.

The following are suggestions which may be practical in your club for the creation of a culture of safer flying.

 Members

  • Cease and discourage unsafe practices and fly safer.
  • If you have to, put your plane down hard to avoid an accident.
  • If you see an unsafe practice (as opposed to an accidental incident), step forward - be bold - approach the offender - be polite and friendly, gentle and understanding - but quietly and privately point out (after starting with some small talk about the weather, their good looking plane or whatever) that they are putting you and others at risk. They may not have recognised the danger (acknowledge this), particularly the beginners who are simply concentrating on their flying.
  • If you get asked not to do something, take it as a constructive criticism. Someone may have just saved you from causing an accident.
  • If the offender continues to offend, report them to a committee member.
  • Keep it all in perspective - you are there for the flying - not the politics or to be judgemental.

Committee

  • Consider the above, your own thoughts and ideas and other ideas forthcoming from members.
  • Re publish the list of rules.
  • Formulate and publish a procedure for when dangerous practices are observed or reported.
  • Have the rules and procedures ratified by the members once every year so that there is commitment from the club (and even a recognition that the rules exist!).
  • Have these available at the club shelter .
  • Wear "COMMITTEE MEMBER" badges with your name on to assist club members and visitors to recognise who you are and the responsibility that you carry.
  • A future issue of your newsletter to be heavily devoted to launching the safety theme, possibly along the lines of "Safety - think it - talk it - fly it!" - complete with a front cover emblazoned with that motto (or something similar) and containing throughout a number of the concepts contained in this article and the club policies, standards and requirements. There was an old advertising saying that 50% of your advertising dollar will be wasted but you will never know which 50%. Perseverance in the promotion of safety is important - thatís why workers compensation and road safety authorities spend millions on safety advertising, with good result.
  • All subsequent newsletters to include an article/section under the "Safety motto" - so that his becomes a part of the culture and a positive learning experience, rather than a bi-monthly telling off which members see as "I wouldnít have done that" and donít relate to.
  • Signs including the "Safety motto" on the keyboard
  • Do not play favourites because someone is on the committee, a former committee member, a world class flier, owns an expensive plane or has always done that and never seems to listen. Safety and unfortunate luck do not play favourites and the effects of bad examples, double standards and hypocrisy undermine the efforts towards a safety goal.
  • Deal with all reports and matters in a positive manner and with due regard to the privacy and esteem of the "offender" - meaning less stress and embarrassment all around.

It is important that members know that they have a committee that is willing to take action on the safety issues and a committee that can count on the support of its members.

This process of change will ruffle a few feathers but life is full of challenges for all of us and it is better than the alternative of a high probability of an avoidable accident.

I do not pretend to be a perfect flier. Like my equipment, I too am prone to "glitches" and if someone (politely) points out a dangerous practice of mine Iíll be embarrassed, but will take it on board . Iíve been hit a few times and nearly hit a few more. I have also landed planes hard to avoid hitting others and am prepared to walk 20 metres rather than land close to others.

As a club member, encourage and support your committee on safety issues, take the politics and personalities out of the disagreements, hose down the fires and get back to flying and the two important rules: - PEOPLE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN PLANES and BE NICE.

Safety - Think it, Talk it, Fly it!

 

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