Thursday, 29 March 2012

There are only three definite things in life for a pilot... ...

There are only three definite things in life for a pilot, death, taxes and check rides. I usually get three of the latter every year and at least three medicals to confirm I am not suffering a case of the foremost!  However I get a bonus every other year when I have to renew my FAA (American) Instructors certificate, yes I know I am a Brit but it is an International world out there folks. I have to sit through 16 presentations on the Internet and pass a short exam at the end of each. To be fair it is a very good way to learn and revise and quite enjoyable, one of todays units was on single pilot resource management - SRM for short!
Actually with a couple of exceptions all of our operations in MAF are carried out, when away from the main base by a team of one - I carry the pilots bags, unload and load 'his' aircraft, refuel it, serve 'him' hot tea,, give out the post and freight, round up the passengers as well as issue the tickets; yup team of one; so single crew resource management is vital! On the ground though there are usually plenty of onlookers and sometimes they can be a great help or an interesting hindrance. On one occasion when landing literally in front of a huge storm, the dark black clouds tumbling over each other as they raced  towards me, I had to beach and anchor my aircraft (it was amphibious) in double quick time. I  waved 7 or 8 Bangladeshi farmers to come and join me, they were only to happy to be given a chance to hide in such an unusual shelter and I was more than happy to have them welcomed on board, a stack of potential very helpful resources, should the aircraft break free from my anchor points.

Crew of one
We need to carry out the SRM skills on all our flights there are 5 of them, they work together, not only at 10,000ft but also in day to day life and I often run through the SRM areas as I get ready for the day whether I am at home or away. Thought you might find them interesting, perhaps even helpful.
Communication - may I hear what people say to me today and if I am not sure what is being said may I clarify it.
Decision Making - as a Christian I have been given brains and common sense, just pray for wisdom to use them!
Situational Awareness - No matter where I am today may I be aware of where I am and with whom.
Resource Mangement - May I use all the amazing things you have given me for your glory.

Working with the resources around can be fun
Workload management - May I learn to keep a balance in my life between work, family, keeping fit, sleeping and being a disciple of Jesus. Yet the latter pervades all the SRM areas.

The definition of SRM is the art and science of a pilot managing all available resources to ensure the successful outcome of the flight is never in doubt. 

... may that be a prayer for me and hopefully for you today, as you use all the available resources to get you through the events of the day.

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Thursday, 15 March 2012

All for One and One for All

A wave of water envelopes the windscreen.... Richard gives me the thumbs up through the clearing deluge, this ‘flood’ was a simple way of seeing off the morning dew to give a clear view for the days work. Checks completed, battery on, starter engaged, engine spools up. The propellor starts to turn in time to the beautiful musical whine of Pratt & Whitney’s ever popular opening number. Blades gain momentum, whirling dervish-like, soon blurring into an almost invisible wall  of aluminium; turbine going up the scale & soon to be in full voice, ready for adventures new.

Refuelling in Moroto in NE Uganda - a new refuelling depot
‘See you then this afternoon,’ an enquiry fielded has turned into an office visit, coffee offered, plans discussed, times and cost decided, tickets printed.
Luc scratches his head, manuals, scattered across the work top, the fault identified & failed part removed. Already stores have managed to find a spare. This component rarely fails so the nearest ‘easily available replacement’ is only 5000 miles away. Already it is heading out with Fed-Ex, to start its new life on the equator. Routine checks are completed, parts installed, aircraft checked, paperwork written up. The Chief Engineer double checks both, another essay is written in the technical log book and all signed and counter signed .

The cleaner's daughter is seriously ill and the PM (Programme manager) arranges for her to go to hospital before he goes up to the Civil Aviation Authority to meet with some officials to chat over some thoughts on airfield security; face to face visits are the only way to encourage trust and friendship.  E mails from MAF International in Ashford, the latest updates to the manuals, a request for information from a board member will all need to be answered this afternoon, as will a letter from a new supporter wondering if they can have a picture of his family. The IT manager sticks his head into the office to say that the server is down again due to a power outage but ‘all should be well soon,’ he advises with a grin.

Passengers and baggage are weighed, tickets checked, seat removed and freight tied down. Aircraft fueled, water put on board and passengers walked down to aircraft.
I collect my paperwork, half a rain forest neatly printed out. I carry the 90kg of boxes neatly labelled for a variety of destinations into the back of my Toyota. I note it has a new front tyre, glad ‘Little Richard,’ who does our vehicle maintenance was onto that when I got in last night, despite being a bit late. The weather in South Sudan, according to the satellite photo, does not look so good; had a chat with Achim, another pilot and we decide going to the west looks the best route, the base radio operator says he will call the destination once I am airborne to get an update.  
Route is checked and weight and balanced confirmed. The aircraft is inspected and oil and fuel double checked. Text arrives from friend, supporter, sister, team member,  'praying for you.' 

                            There is only one pilot to keep an aircraft flying but there are 40 others who get it off the ground. 

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