WEEK 1 CONTENT - CURRENCY

With much of Australia currently in lockdown, our focus for week 1 of National Safety Month is around ensuring members return safely to normal flying operations as COVID-19 restrictions ease over the coming weeks and months!         

Members are urged to take extra caution prior to returning to flight after an extended period, this not only includes maintaining personal minimums, but also ensuring particular attention is paid to aircraft maintenance and pre-flight inspections before flight!

Lack of currency has been identified as a contributing factor in a number of serious and fatal accidents 


WAYS TO WIN

For an entry into our National Safety Month prize draw, read the content below, then submit the form located at the bottom of this page telling us how COVID-19 has impacted your flying operations and what you put in place to manage safety prior to returning to flight after an extended time away. 



INFORMATION FOR PILOTS

COVID-19 restrictions have resulted in many of us taking a longer than usual break from flying. It is therefore more important than ever that extra care is taken prior to your next flight.

Unsure about your level of currency or lack thereof? RAAus has prepared a currency barometer as guidance material to assess your level of currency - See "Currency Resources" below! Pilots with low total experience should take extra caution when considering a return to flight after an extended period of time away.


TOP 10 TIPS FOR PILOTS PRIOR TO RETURN TO FLIGHT

1. Refresh your skills with a local instructor
Before taking it upon yourself to get back in the air, consider a refresher flight with your local RAAus flight instructor. This allows you to return to flight under the supervision of an experienced instructor who can assist if possible. Consider adding a new endorsement to your pilot certificate or renewing your BFR. Not only does this allow you to brush off the cobwebs in a controlled environment, but it also supports local flight training schools who may have been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.

2. Use the IMSAFE checklist prior to flight
Before heading to the airport, apply the IMSAFE checklist to ensure you are fit to fly. If you are not fit and healthy then this may result in further deterioration of your skills and ability to maintain safe flight. Ensure you are well rested, hydrated and are not operating on an empty stomach. If you are feeling under the weather, delay your return to flight until you are fit to do so.

3. Check personal and aircraft compliance
Before each and every flight, pilots should ensure compliance, registration and membership requirements are up to date. Don't get caught out operating non-compliantly. Pilots should check aircraft registration as well as their own RAAus membership, medical and BFR to ensure they are compliant to operate an aircraft. Even if it is less than 2 years since your BFR, consider renewing this with an instructor to ensure your skills are up to standard prior to a return to flight.

4. Review weather and NOTAMs
If you have not flown for an extended period of time then the last thing you want to be trying to manage is the additional pressure of poor weather conditions. Exceeding personal minimums often contributes to an accident which may have otherwise been prevented. Remember that lack of proficiency should result in a reduction in personal minimums. Ensure you review weather forecasts and NOTAMs prior to flight to prevent unexpected surprises. Avoid hot or windy weather conditions and ensure crosswind is within personal limits. If in doubt, try again another day and avoid the temptation to press on.

5. Take extra caution in conducting a pre-flight inspection
If your aircraft has not operated in an extended period of time then extra care should be paid to ensure a very thorough pre-flight inspection prior to flight. Particular attention should be paid to ensuring the aircraft is fit to fly and free from potential birds nests or mouse/animal damage. Check tyre condition if the aircraft has been stationary for some time as well as fuel quality and contamination - Remember if using mogas then fuel quality degrades quickly. Ensure pre-flight inspections are carried out slowly and free from distractions to ensure nothing is overlooked. Also check the aircraft pilot operating handbook (POH) to ensure your pre-flight inspection is carried out in acordance with the manufacturer requirements, which may include removal of engine cowlings to allow better inspection of the engine. For more information on returning your aircraft to flight, see below.

6. Review emergency procedures
The last thing any pilot wants to encounter is an emergency in flight, however, RAAus had an increased number of engine failure or malfunction occurrences following extended lockdowns in 2020. Ensure you are prepared and ready to act in the unlikely event of an emergency in-flight. Review safe operating speeds, immediate actions and avoid the temptation to turn back following an engine failure after take-off. Take extra time to familiarise yourself with these procedures prior to flight and conduct a pre-takeoff safety briefing as a personal reminder prior to take-off.

7. Familiarise yourself with local operating procedures and hazards
Take some time to familiarise yourself with local procedures by reviewing aerodrome charts and local operating procedures prior to flight. This will ensure you can focus more on flying the aircraft rather than attempting to determine circuit directions and joining procedures during flight. Incorrect circuit joining and departure procedures is a common contributing factor in near miss events. Take extra care when rejoining the circuit even if you suspect there is no other traffic operating in the local area and where possible, rejoin the circuit overhead to increase visibility and to allow extra time to prepare for landing. Remember that lack of currency may result in increased workload required to fly the aircraft - High workload often results in a deterioration of situational awareness. 

8. Minimise distractions
Distractions have the ability to result in attention being taken away from the primary task of safely flying the aircraft. Ensure distractions are avoided both during the pre-flight inspection and during flight. Consider turning off your mobile phone or activate flight mode, and never operate with a passenger unless you are current to do so. 

9. Take your time
To err is human, meaning that it is natural for humans to make mistakes. Unfortunately for pilots human factors are the primary contributing factor behind most aviation incidents and accidents. Give yourself the best opportunity to get things right the first time by talking your time during pre-flight planning, pre-flight inspection and during flight. Avoid a return to flight during times where you might be trying to get in before last light or when you have limited available time due to other commitments later in the day. Pilots should also use checklists where available to avoid overlooking check items, particularly after some time away.

10. Keep it simple, keep it fun
At the end of the day, most of us fly for fun, and we want it to be exactly that. For your first flight back after some time away, avoid unnecessary complications such as operating to an unfamiliar airfield. Stick to a local flight within the training area, followed by a session of circuits to brush up on your skills. 

By following this list of simple items, you decrease the likelihood of an incident or accident. Remember that following lockdown there will be increased traffic at aerodromes and many other pilots may also not have flown for some time. Take extra caution when returning to flight to avoid unintended consequences and if in doubt, always check with your flight instructor prior to flight! 


REMEMBER:
It's better to be on the ground wishing you were the air, than in the air wishing you were on the ground.


CURRENCY RESOURCES

INFORMATION FOR AIRCRAFT

COVID-19 restrictions have resulted in many aircraft being stationary for an extended period of time. It is therefore more important than ever that extra care is taken prior to returning your aircraft to flight.

The following points have been put together in an attempt to assist aircraft owners and maintainers with safely returining their aircraft to service. 

1. Don’t rush it
Avoid rushing through the inspection of your aircraft after an extended period without operation. Slowly and carefully inspect the aircraft with the expectation of finding something wrong, rather than with the mindset that everything is fine. This will ensure a much more thorough inspection prior to returning your aircraft to service. 

2. Check maintenance and registration is up to date
Before returning to flight, it is important to ensure all scheduled maintenance requirements that are due, are completed as well as ensuring the aircraft registration is up to date. Check to ensure there are no overdue maintenance requirements including 100hourly/annual inspections, service bulletins or instrument calibration requirements.

3. Carry out a thorough pre-flight inspection:

FUEL
Possibly the first thing to check before anything else, and certainly before the aircraft is moved, is the fuel system for contamination. Water can get into a fuel tank through poor fuel cap seals or even cap locking mechanisms. Any substantial movement of the aircraft may disperse water and other contaminants away from the fuel drain points.

One of the attributes of Avgas is its ability to remain ‘within spec’ for a fair length of time, however with Mogas being used in many aircraft, extra care should be taken to ensure that the fuel is still usable.

 

When fuel is stored in fuel tanks it will slowly evaporate - As this occurs the light components in petrol are lost first. 

According to BP - Petrol will last in equipment fuel tanks for about 3 weeks at a temperature of around 20 degrees celcius, after that it will perform better with fresh petrol added. 

As the light components in fuel are lost, this may result in the mixture becoming lean resulting in higher temperatures, pre-ignition, detonation and piston damage. 

With long storage periods, especially if stored in warmer weather the petrol can oxidize to form peroxides. These compounds can attack rubber and metal, stripping away the liner on fuel lines or copper from fuel pumps and attacking rubber hoses. Generally, the summer volatility of petrol is 30% lower than the winter volatility which means that the loss of lighter components in summer can be quicker, however this is not usually an issue due to higher temperatures but can create problems in Autumn and Winter if the Summer fuel is held over. To avoid this, fresh fuel should always be used in the Winter period.

ENGINE   

There isn’t a lot you can do with the engine apart from give it a good look over for birds’ nests and corrosion and to remove any bungs etc. The engine should not be run without the intention of flying as it’s rarely possible to get it to normal operating temperature on the ground in a bid to boil off any moisture. Ground running tends to promote formation of condensation as the engine cools again.

It is important to note the engine should not be rotated by hand unless you are going flying as this can wipe off any residual oil coating on the various surfaces and leave them prone to corrosion.

It may be wise to change the engine oil as this can absorb moisture. In an ideal world, everyone would change the oil prior to a lay-off as this will remove any of the harmful combustion process by-products and contaminants from the oil.

Check the external surfaces of the cylinders and other components for corrosion. Keeping the cowlings nice and clean will show up any oil leaks that have appeared and give an indication as to where a leak has occurred.

AIRFRAME

Pitot-static systems are particularly prone to blockage either by water or insects, which find the ports extremely attractive places to occupy. If the ports have been securely blanked off, make sure all of the blanks are removed prior to flight.

A careful inspection should be carried out anywhere that birds may decide to nest. Don’t forget inside tail fairings and up inside the undercarriage bays of aircraft with retractable wheels. Rodent attack is possibly the worst enemy. It doesn’t matter if the aircraft is parked indoors or outside – they can break in.

TYRES
Tyres will develop flat spots when not turned for a while. Normally this isn’t an issue and once back in use they will resume their normal shape. As aircraft tyres have a relatively small total volume compared with car tyres, a small leakage can make a big difference on the pressure. This in turn adversely affects the ground handling and in particular the effective drag – not helpful on the take-off run. The possibility of a bit of air leakage over the shutdown period combined means it’s a sensible idea to check tyre pressures.

BATTERY

The battery should be removed and charged accordingly. If not, due to the battery being down on power, it will then be charged at a much higher rate by the aircraft electrical system than that of a battery charger. Wet cell batteries will then start to vent out some acid during this higher power charging which will, in theory, find its way overboard through the battery vent lines. Unfortunately, the acid can sit in the battery box or, even worse, contact the aircraft structure causing massive corrosion problems.

CORROSION
Give the aircraft a wash so it’s nice and clean to inspect for defects and corrosion. Corrosion is the gradual deterioration of metal due to a chemical reaction with its environment. The reaction can be triggered by the atmosphere, moisture, or other agents. When inspecting the structure of an aircraft, it is important to watch for evidence of corrosion on both the outside and inside. Corrosion on the inside is most likely to occur in pockets and corners where moisture may accumulate; therefore, drain holes must always be kept clean. Also inspect the surrounding members for evidence of corrosion.

In summary

After any protracted time out of the air it’s sensible to spend extra time checking over your aircraft before taking to the skies again.

*information sourced from the Light Aircraft Association UK and BP Australia.

Aircraft Resources

OCCURRENCE SUMMARIES

Each year, RAAus has a number of accidents and incidents reported in which currency is determined to be a contributing factor.

The following occurrences are examples of real occurrences to assist in educating members of the importance of currency.

  • Occurrence 1 - Runway Loss of Control

    During the landing phase with a student and instructor aboard, the aircraft veered left off the runway, potentially due to a crosswind, before coming to a stop after hitting a fence post.

    The student was not successful in applying sufficient rudder to prevent the aircraft leaving the runway and the aircraft sustained significant damage.

    RAAus reminds members to maintain currency in all flight maneuvers and to set personal minimums before going flying.

  • Occurrence 2 - Incorrect Circuit Procedures

    An aircraft conducted right hand circuits instead of left hand circuits as listed within ERSA. The pilot of this aircraft changed to left hand circuits after being advised.

    During the review it was determined that the pilot was familiar with the local procedures but due to lack of currency had reverted to previous direction an alternative runway which required right hand circuits.

    Non-standard circuit procedures have the ability to result in conflicting operations with other aircraft. Pilots are reminded to review local procedures at all times especially if currency has been affected by external factors. This is highly relevant with the current restrictions in force in various states due to COVID 19.

  • Occurrence 3 - Runway Loss of Control

    Upon landing, the tailwheel aircraft touched down on the main wheels with aileron deflection for crosswind component held during rollout.

    As speed reduced and the tail wheel dropped, the aircraft turned into the wind causing a ground loop during which the aircraft departed the runway onto the grass on the windward side.

    Review of the occurrence identified that lack of currency was a contributing factor in relation to this occurrence as well as management of personal minimums with respect to cross wind conditions, correct tail wheel landing techniques (wheeler) and currency of flight operations.

    Pilots are reminded of the importance of maintaining currency as well as ensuring conditions are suitable for a return to flight after an extended time away from flying operations.

  • Technical Related Occurrences

    Following initial lockdowns within Australia in March 2020, RAAus saw an increase in the number of reported engine failure occurrences.

    Throughout 2020 RAAus had 78 occurrences reported due to technical related failure, including 36 reports of engine failure or malfunction and 18 occurrences relating to landing gear issues or failure. 

    5 of these occurrences resulted in significant damage being reported to RAAus and 3 resulted in the aircraft being destroyed.

    RAAus reminds all pilots, maintainers and aircraft owners to pay particular attention to aircraft maintenance and inspection prior to returning to flight after an extended time out of service.

WIN! CLICK HERE TO COMPLETE THE WEEK 1 QUESTIONS

This October, RAAus has over $10,000 worth of prizes up for grabs by participating in our National Safety Month campaign! 

For our week 1 entry into the draw, read the content above, then complete the questions. All completed entries will have the chance to win in the major prizes draws and RAAus members will have an additional chance to win in the member's only prize draw. Don't forget to include your member number!

 


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