Danger in Distracted Flying

distractionSafety Standdown is an aviation safety training program that promotes pilot safety through personal discipline and responsibility. One of the most critical principles that inspired this program is the fact that human error is responsible for 80% of mistakes in aviation.

The program started in Wichita, Kansas in 1996 with just eight people. In 1999, it was opened to all pilots. The objective is to improve aviation safety standards through seminars, safety training programs, online resources, and tools to fight human error in aviation. The program is free of charge and catered specifically to pilots, crew, maintenance technicians, and managers across the aviation industry.

The 19th annual event, set by Bombardier Business Aircraft, is focused on attention-control techniques. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), four collisions involving Piper and Cessna aircraft have occurred over the past four years. Three of those incidents proved fatal. In one accident, two planes collided about 900 feet above ground when the pilots were monitoring different radio frequencies and failed to see each other.

After the four plane collisions caused eight deaths, the NTSB issued an official safety alert advising pilots of planes of all sizes to use fundamental see-and-avoid vigilance techniques throughout the flight and avoid head-down flying.

In another example of distracted flying that killed a pilot and passenger in Colorado in May, investigators recovered an intact GoPro video camera in the wreckage. Review of the content showed the pilot using his cell phone to take “selfie” photos of himself with several passengers the day before. When investigators found nothing apparently wrong with the aircraft, it was surmised that the pilot likely used a cellphone during the fatal flight.

Handheld mobile devices aren’t the only cause for distraction either. A distracted pilot in California was apparently focused on an electrical issue and failed to notice that his landing gear was not deployed. In that incident, the pilot and passenger were lucky to escape injury.

This year’s Safety Standdown event includes several thought-provoking topics:

  • Inattentive? Are you talking to me?
  • When all else fails, are you prepared?
  • Emergency firefighting training

See the full agenda of workshops for the October event.

Commercial airline pilots increasingly use tablets, smartphones, and handheld GPS units in place of paper flight plans and navigation charts. Unfortunately, potential for distracted flying is growing as well. It turns out that distracted flying is likely to be hazardous, much like distracted driving.

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