The “Safety” versus “Reliability” Puzzle

The single most important thing in aviation is safety. But what happens when the use of the word “safety” eliminates “reliability”? I am not talking in any way about unsafe flying practices, unsafe aircraft maintenance, or busting minimums. What I am talking about is when pilots use the word “safety” as a convenient excuse for pilot inadequacies, incompetence’s, or just plain indifference.

The number one reason a corporation purchases a company aircraft is to get to where they need to go on their schedule, safely, and on time. Nothing makes executives more frustrated than to see 30 million dollars’ worth of aluminum sitting on the ramp while a pilot rambles on about why he is canceling a trip…because of crosswinds or that the weather the next day might be unsuitable. What’s the point of having an aircraft if the pilot can’t, or won’t fly…and how do they get away with it? It is not the aircrafts fault.

When an aircraft manufacturer builds an aircraft, the manufacturer specifies that the aircraft they are selling is approved by the FAA and can safely operate in many conditions. The conditions in which it cannot fly are clearly published in their specifications. The aircraft is certified by the FAA, and demonstrated to the FAA, by the manufacturer to operate safely in crosswinds, various degrees of bad weather, and numerous emergency situations. What makes the aircraft become unreliable? Some pilots do!

Weak pilots simply sidestep any and all conditions based on their own limitations, not the limitations of aircraft. All a pilot needs to do is to write down in the company’s operations manual flight limitations based on their weaknesses. In many cases these weaknesses are well below the capabilities of the aircraft. Obviously this does not apply to all pilots, but it does too many as can be seen by their own reliability records. So cancellations are almost always more about pilot capabilities than aircraft or weather.

I have seen pilots limit crosswind landings in the ops manuals to 10 knots, not because the aircraft is incapable of performing, but the pilot is. I have seen minimum landing ops that say if the wind is more the 20 degrees off the nose the pilot cannot land to minimums. Why is that?

I have seen ops manuals restrictions grow and grow to the point where the pilot never really has to fly. All the pilot needs to say to the aircraft’s owner, is that conditions where they are, or at the destination, is beyond ops manual allowances. Therefore, by default, the pilot makes reliability a safety issues not the pilot’s weaknesses.

That is not only pathetic, but it completely reduces the value of the company aircraft to a multi-million dollar paper weight.

If a pilot cannot fly to the standards of the aircraft and the minimum standards set forth by the FAA, what good is he or she?

No one is asking anyone to get in over their heads, but before anyone claims to be a professional pilot, they should be capable of flying their aircraft into any weather the plane can handle without excuses.

If a pilot has to lower aircraft standards to his standards, via ops manuals, then he and the company he flies for would all be better off, and safer, if he took a job in the food service industry.

Erudite Solutions for Business Aviation

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