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June/July 2000

Table of Contents
Camping with your Airplane
Flying the Backcountry
Establishing Recreational Airports
The Call of the Wild
The new Aviat Husky
The $100 Hamburger
McGehee's Catfish Restaurant, Oklahoma
Back To Basics
Flying Safely to Remote Airstrips
Hangar Flying:
The Choir
SWAV News Update

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SW Aviator Magazine
3909 Central NE
Albuquerque, NM 87108
Phone: 505.256.7031
Fax: 505.256.3172
The Choir
by J. D. Huss, Safety Program Manager, Albuquerque FSDO

From the time of our first dual flight, we were taught to consider "WHAT IF…?" That train of thought required us to think ahead of the aircraft, to consider possibilities and alternative courses of action, and to expect the situation to generally get worse, not better. Most of us would not fly if we were absolutely convinced the engine would fail, or that we would crash, but here is the strange thing – we do consider those possibilities. I don’t think any of us give a moment’s thought to things of that nature as we drive our automobile (nor do any of us attend driver safety meetings – unless a judge tells us to). Why do we think about these things in an aircraft?

I have always been curious about the type of person that attends aviation safety meetings. Most of them are pilots who fly for pure enjoyment; some are flight instructors, and there is always a smattering of corporate/airline pilots in the audience. I can name a lot of people, many of whom you probably know, that are always in the audience (many times, the smart-alecks refer to them as "the Choir"). They are not really any different than you or I, they have aviation in their blood (or MIL-5606 in place of blood) and want to learn all they can about their chosen profession, or avocation.

When I first started flying, state aviation departments would travel around the area conducting pilot meetings. Later (around 1963) the FAA got into the act with a Safety Program that gave out little "Safety Pins" that had a profile of the Spirit of St. Louis on them (If you have one of those lapel/tie pins - you have been around a long time!) My flight instructor attended every meeting he could. He did not encourage me to attend; I would attend or else (and I would attend whether he was able to be there or not)! As time went on and I moved around the country chasing aviation jobs, I continued to attend safety meetings and became an Aviation Safety Counselor (or "Safety Sentinel" as we were known then) for several different General Aviation District Offices (GADO).

If you are one of the FAA’s Safety Program Managers (SPM), your position in the bureaucracy is rather unique. Practically everyone in aviation knows what you do – except your boss. Think about this for a minute – How WOULD YOU KNOW if an accident DID NOT occur? SPM’s can’t say this is "a thankless job" (but you have a lot of Karma to use up) – because it isn’t. Every now and then you talk to a person who relates remembering something you said at a safety meeting, or in a passing conversation, that affected the way they perceived something. If you are lucky, they remembered your colossal statement just as the aircraft was about to smite the ground, which helped them overcome the situation and save the lives of all aboard.

As with most meetings, there is always the "meeting after the meeting" (which is usually attended by the more dedicated members of the Choir). This is where most of the evening’s information is hashed and re-hashed (or the dead horse is beaten into mush). Aviators tend to be pragmatic realists – "The fuel tank is not half full, it’s half empty!" While most of us have an equal number of takeoffs and landings (or more landings than takeoffs – depending on your technique) modern aircraft have very few mechanical problems that are listed as the cause of an accident. This is not to say nothing ever malfunctions but, when it does, it usually is more of an inconvenience than a life-threatening emergency. Those types of problems are the subjects of many of the meetings that take place "after the meeting." If you boil that philosophy down, it becomes "Learn from other’s mistakes! You probably won’t live long enough to make them all yourself!"

There is one strange thing about those members of "the Choir." You very rarely see their name on an accident, incident, or enforcement report.

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The material in this publication is for advisory information only and should not be relied upon for navigation, maintenance or flight techniques. SW Regional Publishing, Inc. and the staff neither assume any responsibilty for the accuracy of this publication's content nor any liability arising out of it. Fly safe.