Safety: Doodling on a Blank Sheet of Safety

How timely.  I recently attended the annual FAASTeam representative training at College Park Airport, in Maryland, along with about twenty other CFIs, DPEs, pilots and AMTs.  We’re here to review our obligations as FAASTeam reps and to restock our supply of knowledge to share with others at seminars, webinars, flying club meetings and so on.  Baltimore FSDO Program Manager Jerry Pratt lead us through a morning full of websites, stories and discussions on the general topic of GA safety and what we can do about it.

How very timely!  I’m now writing this month’s Club Connector safety article for the Clubs in Formation edition, and the parallel doesn’t escape me.  We’re talking about the same thing.  How we can get a group of passionate aviators to first choreograph and then walk the walk on aviation safety.

A flying club in formation (CiF) is exquisitely positioned to start with the end in mind regarding aviation safety and the notion of a culture of safety.  Of course, cultures aren’t created but are rather formed by the adherence to values—in other words, they emerge over time.  We have talked about safety culture in other Club Connector editions, and the new AOPA Guide to Starting a Flying Club has a chapter dedicated to the topic, but let’s look here are how to get it started, and what tools a CiF has to get the wheels in motion.

Firstly, recognize that club’s board of directors or officers provide more than just governance.  Along with the president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer, a flying club needs (amongst others), a maintenance officer and safety officer.  The former is in charge of equipment maintenance, both planned and unplanned, which of course translates into safe equipment, whereas the latter—the safety officer—is concerned with the definition and practice of safety as well as the club’s attitude towards it, with regard to its pilot members. It is clearly important that they talk to each other!

When you select your club officers, write bylaws and define your operating rules, think hard about the safety culture you want to inspire.   You have the wonderful opportunity presented by a blank sheet of paper, but that doesn’t mean you first have to invent the pen.  There is plenty of information available to help you get started—let’s look at just a few.

Here is an extract from the bylaws of the Westminster Aerobats Flying Club, Inc. that will give the general idea, but work it through as a group and make to your own:

The Safety Officer: The Safety Officer shall be responsible for the club’s safety culture, records, education, training, and conformance. The Safety Officer shall be designated as the club’s Chief Pilot, and shall either directly or through delegation, check-out new members prior to them operating club aircraft, and shall provide recurrent check-outs to all members, as specified in the Club Operating Rules.  The Safety Officer shall maintain records of members’ qualifications and currency and shall inform affected members and the President of lapses.  The Safety Officer shall plan and conduct safety meetings and a mandatory annual safety stand down meeting.  The Safety Officer shall encourage the open discussion of safety matters and shall create and maintain methods whereby members may confidentially report issues related to safety to the Safety Officer and Board of Directors.  Shall provide a Safety Report at all membership meetings.  The President shall be constantly apprised of all matters related to safety.

AOPA has a wealth of tools to help you with safety  The Air Safety Institute has many quizzes, courses, videos and other formats that provide safety officer with material on wide ranging topics.  The Safety to Go material is especially useful for new flying clubs.  recent addition to this is the new Scalable Safety Framework presentation, which helps you formulate a practical safety program. The presentation is designed to take small groups through the process of creating their own safety program, which is perfect for a newly forming flying club—and can form the basis of your first safety meeting.

Getting back to the FAASTeam.  Most of you know this as the FAA WINGS program, but if you think you know all about it, take another look.  The program is ever-evolving and contains excellent material for individual pilots as well as instructors and safety officers.   The program also acts as a pre-designed proficiency system via the various WINGS phases.  Really, you don’t have to reinvent anything here—it has all been done for you, so why not give it a try for your flying club?  You get access to FAA material, your members can use it towards (and even an alternative for) flight reviews and keeping records of achievements may well result in a discount on your insurance premium.  What’s not to like about this?

By the way, you too can become a FAASTeam representative.  There is bit of training to do, but theyou will be able to present WINGS seminars at club-hosted events.  For example, the program provides a canned Topic of the Month, which you can use as the basis of your monthly safety meeting.  This is also wonderful way to give forward to the whole aviation community, and for the club to be recognized as a leader in aviation safety.

If you’re interested, contact the FAASTeam Program Manager at your local FSDO.  In the meantime, check out the FAASTeam website and sign-up for an account – you’ll be glad you did!

Need more help or answers?  Want to speak with a club safety officer and FAASTeam Representative, then call Steve Bateman, director of the flying clubs initiative, on 301-695-2356, or send email to [email protected]

Fly lots and stay safe!

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