As we have reminded you throughout the Out-n-Back series, a well planned flight is always your first class ticket to the SAFEST flight. You have taken great care choosing your aircraft, your route, your accommodation, your fuel stops, your passengers, and you are current on the aircraft you are taking away.
Take time to complete an accurate Weight & Balance sheet. Never be shy to ask your passengers their weight. Once you explain why, they’ll rarely lie! And don’t forget to explain that a luggage maximum of 7kgs TOTAL means TOTAL. It does NOT mean plus coat, handbag and camera. While you’re doing home truths with your passengers, let them know that your itinerary is a little different than what they’re used to. You have an absolute right, in fact a legal responsibility as pilot in command, to take whatever measures are necessary to ensure the safe conduct of this flight. If that means changing the timing, or the route, or not going at all, then make them aware of that possibility. It is very important to set these expectations with passengers prior to flight. This makes in-flight decisions more easy, timely and rational.
If you haven’t been away on a long flight for a while, and are feeling a little apprehensive about that first day’s flying, then here’s a suggestion. Sometimes the best preparation can include a personal routine. How about sitting down at your desk with your first couple of maps and going through the actual flight, step by step? Go through start-up and taxi procedures, run-up considerations and departure from the circuit. Think about any exchanges with ATC that may be required. Rehearse out aloud every radio call you think you’ll need, and if you muck it up, then say it again until you get it right. Another good time to practise radio calls is on your way to the aerodrome if you’ve got a long drive.
Think about what you’re going to do if the weather packs it in within the first half hour. Do you have a Plan B over lower terrain, or away from the bad weather? And remember, the notion of delaying or cancelling the flight should never be buried somewhere unreachable in your psyche. In fact, the chances of a timely and rational decision concerning the weather greatly reduces after the half way point in the journey.
So, closer to departure, and with your personal checklist taken care of, it’s now time to cover all bases with a thorough pre-flight briefing. These days, we have access to loads of information from CASA and Airservices, many of which we’ve listed below, that can guide us through preparing for our flight.
In the weeks leading up to your safari, take some time to read through these useful sections in ERSA:
- ERSA INTRO (section 4 – AERODROME INFORMATION)
- Includes advice on the NOTAM service.
- ERSA GEN-PF (entire chapter)
- Goes into much more detail on contact numbers, NAIPS access, Specific Pre-flight Information Briefing (SPFIB), AVFAX, Airspace Group codes, and the Automated Meteorological Telephone Briefing Service (METBRIEF).
- ERSA GEN – FIS
- Provides info on AERIS frequencies, In-flight information service, cancellation of SARWATCH and SARTIME, HF frequencies, designated remote areas and UAV testing.
Airservices has recently released a range of instructional videos to help pilots plan their flights via the NAIPS Internet Services (NIS). Take some time to watch these videos below and refresh your memory on the correct method to:
- lodge a VFR flight notification
- create a Specific Pre-Flight Information Briefing
- access meteorological and NOTAM information for flight planning purposes
- access and understand restricted area briefing information
- lodge and cancel a VFR SARTIME
These videos are accessible at working with air traffic control.