Safety topic from Episode 10

Housekeeping tips & Gear

Organisation in the cockpit

It is common sense to try and clear your head space while you’re flying. A good start is being organised in the cockpit. We each have our own system for access to our flight plan and charts. Even if you are using an Electronic Flight Bag (EFB), it’s a good idea to have your backup charts appropriately folded, within reach and stored in the order in which you are going to need them. 

If you plan on using your mobile phone en route, then make sure it’s charged, and put it somewhere accessible. A Bluetooth enabled headset and smart phone is an invaluable combination in the cockpit. Just make sure you turn it OFF to avoid distraction anywhere near take-off, landing or circuit entry. Some people recommend not having your phone on at all below 5000ft, but you need to make your own rule here, depending on your own specific circumstances.

The phone is really useful, say, if you’ve read in ERSA that your destination or en route aerodrome does not have a dedicated radio frequency for its AWIS or ATIS, and only a landline phone number is listed. Why not load this into your phone before you take off? It’s just one more thing you don’t have to go looking for in-flight. 

Don’t leave home without ...

CAO 20.11 states that “Aircraft planned to operate within or through a designated remote area (as shown in ERSA GEN FIS 17) are required to carry survival equipment suitable for sustaining life in the area over which the flight is planned”. 

We all have our own lists, but here are a few other items we’d recommend you don’t leave home without. Plus you need to make sure they’re within easy reach while you’re flying.

  • 406MHz Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) (registered and recently tested) 
  • pocket survival blanket which can also act as an earth mat that can potentially double the range of your PLB
  • spare hand-held GPS with fully charged batteries
  • spare hand-held radio
  • for flight in really remote areas, you may wish to consider hiring a satellite phone
  • spare headset (if possible)
  • consider having a spare aircraft key cut, in case you misplace your normal key
  • water – dehydration is more debilitating than you might think 
  • your LAME’s number on speed-dial 
  • a head torch if you plan on flying after dark or pre-flighting before first light
  • a cockpit charger for all your electronic tools  
  • two cushions for the vertically challenged (extra comfort for long flights too) 
  • sun cap – test drive it under your headset before you leave home
  • Jellybeans. OK, they’re not vital, but do take your favourite healthy snack. 
  • And finally….some cash, as some remote services might note take credit/debit cards.

And, on the ground ... 

  • A decent tie-down kit is going to let you sleep way better at night when that desert wind starts howling.  A good combination is a set of three star pickets cut to 400mm lengths, strong ropes like braided nylon or Dacron, and a 1kg mallet. Then as long as your knots hold, you should find your pride and joy the next morning exactly where you left it last night. 
  • Whilst we’re filling the boot, throw in your tool kit, fuel drain, spare oil funnel, (and oil!), wheel chocks, control locks, air filter covers, and a light broom or brush to sweep away any stones in the dirt around your prop. Pick up and throw away any big ones by hand. This is a fun game for the passengers. Just make sure the Master switch is off and the keys aren’t in the ignition.
  • Be kind to your aircraft. If you don’t have an all-over cover, pack a big sun visor to lay above her instrument panel, particularly when she’s going to be basking in the hot sun for a couple of days.

Bugs and other visitors

Keep your windscreen clean! As our Out-n-Back crews found out in no uncertain terms whilst en route from Dirranbandi to Narrabri, there’s a fair chance you’ll fly through farming and pastoral land which are magnets to large swarms of flying creatures. At certain times of year, often relating to harvest time, insects like grasshoppers, locusts, and bugs of all shapes and sizes can easily navigate themselves slap bang into your windscreen. In no time, you’ll be squinting through fast-decreasing spaces between the carnage, making it very hard to see much at all. 

If it’s getting ridiculous, try flying at a different level. The point is, check your windscreen before each leg of your flight. If you already have a build-up of splotches on your windscreen when you take off, then good luck spotting your destination airstrip at the other end, let alone other light aircraft traffic, particularly if you’re looking into a setting sun.

Whilst you’re at it, try and look after your aircraft en route, rather than waiting til you get home. Start by keeping your leading edge surfaces as clean as possible. Chances are those bugs didn’t restrict themselves to landing on your windscreen and have spread themselves across any surface that got in their way. Next time you have a weather-induced lay day en route, why not give the old girl a tub? Then, as you and your wet cloth make your way around the aircraft, take the opportunity of checking all’s well with those rivets, hinges and other nooks and crannies of the airframe you mightn’t have inspected for a while. 

On your Daily Inspection, check and double-check that a bug hasn’t crawled into your pitot tube where it’s safe and warm. This is a good place to remind you (before you leave home) to make sure your pitot tube cover fits snugly, without any inviting gaps, or worn elastic.