By CJP Executive Director Jon “Huggy” Huggins

CJP-Lt-Col-Jon-Huggy-HugginsComing off the Winter Holiday Season, many pilots are finding that they haven’t been in their aircraft books for some time. That book knowledge is critical for jet pilots; if you are going to burn kerosene in the unforgiving thin air of the flight levels, while moving 7 nautical miles per minute, you need to know your aircraft and procedures better than the VFR driver in the 172.

A lot better.

In my previous life, our first work day in January was a safety “down-day.” No flying, but plenty of safety meetings, discussions, general knowledge reviews, and other “admin.” It was time to get focused, and revisit some hot topics.

Why the admin? It was a chance to get some of that knocked out so that we were not dwelling on it during our mission planning, briefing, flight, or debrief. The goal is to get “focused on flying.”

What’s in your admin bucket during this first half of January? Each of you has a lot going… distractions that do not do you any favors with the turbines spinning. You may not be able to get rid of them, but you can mitigate them. Your “aircraft general knowledge” can be a powerful way to do that.

For me, January is like most other months, since I try to keep my routine constant:

• I write out all of the memory items before the first flight of each month. I do it until I have it 100% correct.

• I fill out a blank Operations Limitations for the jet each month.

• Before every flight, I review one emergency/abnormal procedure. Just one. If I’m flying by myself, I like to get into the seat, pull out the checklist, and go through the scenario slowly, touching each switch or control, as called for by the checklist. It only takes a minute or two.

• If I find myself pressed on time, and unable to get this done… then, I have to ask myself why I’m getting rushed and letting this happen? It’s almost always some “admin” creeping into my “airplane time,” and with as little airplane time as I get, that’s just wrong. Airplane time is sacred to me. And it deserves the attention required of someone about to go 400 knots.

Having a little surface rust form on your skills is normal this time of year. Surface rust comes off easily if addressed early. If not, it becomes corrosion.

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Complicating all of this is the fact that January and February have some of the most challenging weather conditions, thanks to icing, runway contamination, and cold temps. Know your personal limits, and abide by them… especially when that little voice in your head is expressing doubt that you should be going.

That reminds me of an article I read last year that quoted CJP Member Stuart Fred on making safe go/no-go decisions. He said, “If there is doubt, there is no doubt.”

Stay focused out there.