To the Letter

To the Letter

Concerned with flight in marginal weather
Dear Editor,

I am a former Master Mariner and a retired Nautical Science and Search and Rescue Instructor with the Canadian Coast Guard. Having always been interested in aviation, I decided upon my retirement to get my private pilot licence, to which I added a night rating. Air travel is considered to be the safest means of transportation, where safety is achieved through a highly-regulated industry. There appears to be, however, an area in airline operations where precise rules seem to be lacking, the consequences of which can prove to be very alarming.

Over the past decades, there have been a number of grave accidents in the airline industry that have been weather related, and which seem to obey the same pattern. Those accidents involving heavy casualties and the destruction of large airliners seem to have been caused by the captain's insistence to challenge the weather and "make the runway" no matter what.

As a side note, my first flight instructor lost his life a few years ago, along with two other passengers, as his captain insisted on landing during a snowstorm after a first attempt failed. Some airline flights had been cancelled due to the existing conditions. Many more cases have been documented.

In flight, weather is the "great equalizer," where experienced to low-time pilots are all treated the same way. All pilots were taught about diversions, holding patterns and how to stay out of harm's way. In discussions I had with experienced pilots, it would appear that scheduling factors, as well as potential expenses incurred by a diversion, are amongst the pressures to complete a landing in spite of marginal conditions. I am not aware of any regulation that drastically prohibits reckless attitudes and behaviours, but I would be interested to hear your opinion on this serious matter.

Régis Serre
Cornwall, Ont.

Thank you Mr. Serre. Canadian carriers have an excellent safety record of following established procedures and safe practices with regards to weather factors. The implementation of safety management systems (SMS) integrates safety into policies, management and employee practices, as well as operating procedures throughout the organization. SMSs offer the most promising means of preventing these types of accidents in commercial operations. While I am confident that the attitudes and behaviours of Canadian pilots meet a very high standard, I believe the publication of your letter is a meaningful reminder to all of us who fly. -Ed.

Flying clubs as partners in the aviation safety system in Canada
Dear Editor,

Kudos to the COPA (Canadian Owners and Pilots Association) and the Aviation Safety Letter (ASL) for recognizing the important role of flying clubs as partners in the aviation safety system in Canada ("COPA Corner-Flying Clubs-Why Bother?" by Adam Hunt, ASL 4/2006).

Although flying clubs have long been recognized for their central role in training, many also provide a broad range of services for their rental and owner membership. In the case of the Calgary Flying Club, we support on-going learning and skill maintenance for our members through initiatives, such as safety seminars, and the offer of an annual free check-ride with one of our instructors. One has to wonder why so many aircraft owners choose to "go it alone" when they could have the camaraderie and support that can be found at their local club.

David L. Mapplebeck
President, Calgary Flying Club

Clarification on ASL 3/2007 letter to the editor on engine failure and fuel management

Additional information has been received regarding an event described in a letter to the editor, titled "Engine failure," which appeared in the Aviation Safety Letter (ASL) 3/2007. Unfortunately, the writer partly attributed uncorroborated blame to his employer at the time, and such comments unsupported by facts would normally be edited out. There is evidence to indicate that the aircraft was in fact properly dispatched for fuel, and that company procedures were in place to avoid such an incident. The intent of the letter was to convey awareness of proper fuel management practices by pilots. The ASL apologizes for this editorial oversight. -Ed.

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