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PIC Attitude, Safety, Responsibility

This post is two fold. One part is about the responsibility for everyone on board. The other part is about what’s continuing to go wrong and why accidents continue to repeat themselves.

A quote from the thread of the horrific crash in the Swiss alps:
Balliol wrote:

I just can’t reconcile the hassle/stress/risk of using a light single for family travel [not in any way knocking those that do – it’s my personal take]

It’s difficult to find a good answer regarding risk. Is a local flight less risky than a long cross country over higher terrain or over water? In the end, it doesn’t matter how or where something terrible happens.

How „dangerous“ GA flying really is will be an endless debate. I do think though that we can agree that flying our families somewhere ourselves is riskier than driving by car or taking the airlines. On the other hand, why go through all the hoops required to fly when you can’t share the advantages among friends and family.

I’d be interested on your views.
Do you fly with your family? With your young kids? Do you observe any special rules or treat it like any other flight? For example: would you fly in certain weather alone without issues but not if your kids/wife/relatives were aboard?

Just the last few weeks I recall a Cirrus crash in Austria, a C182 crash in Germany and now this Piper crashing in Switzerland. We know the alps are not to mess with and flying through valleys under low clouds isn’t easy, but in good weather crossing them north to south and vv can be done without magic on many routes in FL100 or even lower. One doesn’t need extensive mountain flying experience to do that. It’s part of basic skills that every pilot needs to be able to do. It’s easy actually.

It seems however that the (PPL and further) training is completely lacking in many very important and basic areas that ensure pilots can safely undertake these flights. The saying “it’s a license to learn” is both a contradiction and confirmation of this sad state. Who are the instructors and examiners that sign of pilots that later fly at 6000ft along side some of europe’s tallest mountains? 40 hours should be enough to learn not only how to fly straight and level but also how to avoid the most common mistakes.Yet these accidents repeat themselves. Maybe skip some of the useless stuff and concentrate more on human factors? Learn to know what you don’t know…

I’m not only talking about how to correctly establish a safe and applicable route/altitude but also about analysis of personal attitude and self reflection techniques. In short: acquisition of feedback to further one’s abilities. There are many ways to do this. Bring a local pilot to show you around, ask for honest feedback before flying and compare with your own view, identity threats methodically in order to counter them. Work out contingency strategies.
Shouldn’t this be done during license revalidations? No point in signing of a candidate because he can fly super accurately if he accurately flies into terrain on his next flight.

always learning
LO__, Austria

If I may speak for my PPL training, we didn’t learn that much to fly at higher altitudes. Even not mentioned during theory lessons. Since I’ve got my license, I fly most of the times on higher altitudes during long legs. It’s easy, you have many options in case of engine failure, faster GS, less or none turbulence, and on busy weekends and holidays with lots of VFR traffic, flying in class C/D makes it even safer.

Most of the pilots I know fly however on low altitudes. Even in my area with low mountain ranges up to 3.000 ft, most don’t exceed the 3.500 ft. Some even make fun of me, when I’m flying most of the times at FL65 or more. Sure, I do also love and practice some low flying, but on A to B flights, I like heights.

Last Edited by Frans at 27 Aug 23:48

Many years ago, with my wife and daughter who was a baby I took a long, VFR flight in Australia. This involved a tricky departure towards higher ground in the mountains west of Sydney, and an eventual sea crossing to an island off Tasmania. It was a 500nm or so trip. I was a pretty new pilot with maybe 80 hours.

Firstly, I scared myself in the terrain trying to stay under the cloud base. I decided to get an IR after this.

Then over the water I had studied the best way and was at 10000ft. The crossing was about 100nm. I was very nervous about it. It all went fine.

My view is that there are three things that protect you when flying with family. These, in order of importance are:

  1. Training
  2. Equipment ie aircraft – use the best you can afford
  3. Planning, which is enhanced by 1 and 2

Without judging the Swiss accident, the altitude to cross that pass should be worked out on the ground. Not in flight.Taking into account your equipment and skill level to plan when to climb to it.

But training post PPL is the most important thing you can do to manage your own risk.

EGTK Oxford

I do completely agree with JasonC:

# Training
# Equipment ie aircraft – use the best you can afford
# Planning, which is enhanced by 1 and 2

And I would add
# Refresher and enhancement training.

In my opinion it is necessary to recheck your performance level regularly. The yearly checkflight is not enough on a midterm and longterm perspective.

But beside this, from the first day after receiving the PPL I was flying with my family. Maybe – this is only a thesis – the responsibility you feel for your family, leads you to a more risk avoiding strategy, then when flying with friends or colleagues, where you might take more risk to show how „cool“ you are. Family needs no Top Gun pilote.

EDDS , Germany

To add to the excellent posts above: distraction and get-there-itis are specific risks when flying with your family, especially young children. For both, the mitigation can (must?) come from both:

  1. safety margins in terms of weather, timing, currency etc; these flights should be well within “comfort zone”
  2. the partner, who will play an active role in managing the kids, and needs to be 100% on board with the possibility you will cancel or abort the trip if there’s any reason to

It’s not easy. But to come back to Baillol’s remark, we find travelling with our plane fun and rewarding. Yes there is some stress, my wife and kids make fun of me for being in “Pilot mode” before departures, and for some reason my usually punctual wife never manages to leave for the airport at the set time if we’re flying ourselves. But we learn about each other like that. One of the reasons I took up flying (it was that or golf) was to create memories.


Snoopy wrote:

Do you fly with your family? With your young kids? Do you observe any special rules or treat it like any other flight? For example: would you fly in certain weather alone without issues but not if your kids/wife/relatives were aboard?

Yes, I fly with my family. Typically easy airports and blue sky weather. We can do Bornholm, but can’t do Trento. We have a professional pilot onboard on some trips. I can then sit in the back, focus on my family and not bother with all the on-ground overhead.

Flying with family puts extra pressure on me personally. In difficult situations I become more nervous. I remember a flight to Dubrovnik where it was all going well and I could see the ground until we suddenly got into a thick cloud seconds before DA. Boy, was my hand shaking on the TOGA. I try to avoid such situations now.

An interesting approach I heard from some women is that it’s OK to fly with the whole family, but not OK to split. As in, it’s better if we all die.

LPFR, Poland

Snoopy wrote:

Do you fly with your family? With your young kids? Do you observe any special rules or treat it like any other flight? For example: would you fly in certain weather alone without issues but not if your kids/wife/relatives were aboard?

Yes and yes (or I did when they were young). I don’t observe any special rules except that I’m concerned about not doing anything that could frighten them. OTOH my wife used to have a PPL, so she knows what to expect.

ESKC (Uppsala/Sundbro), Sweden

Being in the Alps , I feel lucky to have been exposed to mountain flying during my ppl and after, being very attentive and respectful of how dangerous it can be. At 15h ppl, we started to go around Gap or Barcelonnette and flying at 10000ft or around.
The fact is that we have many stories of good pilots, some was mountain rated, that finished tragically, that reminds us about the fact that mountain kills.
During the ppl, we were taught how to cross ridge, how to study wind when you cross pics at less than 1000ft, the rotors,… It’s far from mountain rating and it actually inspires fear more than anything, but fear is here to keep away from danger…
About family trips, the first keep is my wife that doesn’t like flying. So trips must be calm and risk (at least visible) must be low to preserve the possibility to fly again. Actually these kinds of flight are long ones, so they are anyway better prepared than a local or a burger one.

LFMD, France

Yes fly with my wife, all the time. She loves going places and says she missed the plane that atm is still stuck in St Johns waiting on the new engine that will hopefully arrive week after next.

LFHN - Bellegarde - Vouvray France

I fly with my kids all the time and with my wife on very few occasions, because she is not very comfortable in any aeroplane including mine. Kids are a distraction and they can be a major distraction. Now they are a little bit older (5 & 6) they understand the ‘sterile cockpit’ and I can brief them. There is only so much I can handle and I wouldn’t take them up with me if weather and/or terrain is an issue, although weather is not always predictable. It does remain an issue with me. I wouldn’t stick them on the back of my motorcycle with me but I do take them flying. The risks are about the same. Seeing the pics of JGMusic and his family break my heart and get me thinking risks again.

I do however made some great memories flying with my girls, and they enjoy it too.

EHTE, Netherlands
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