Getting back into flying? Great! With the government restrictions soon to be lifted in Melbourne, we at CFC want to make sure you are safe to get back into the air after your brief break from flying. There are a few things we want to check before jumping straight in:
- Licences and other paperwork current
- Competent to fly
- Aircraft maintenance up-to-date
- Aircraft clean and safe
- Weather for my first flight back
- In the right mindset
Let’s have a look at each of them and make sure we are ready for takeoff…
Licences and other paperwork
I’m sure we all remember the four (technically five) documents required for flight, right?
- Flight Manual
- Maintenance Release
- Photo ID (snuck in with the Part 61 change)
We’ll look at the flight manual and maintenance release later, but the others need to be current.
An Australian Flight Crew Licence never “expires”, but it does require a current flight review. It’s written right on the licence itself. Look on Page 7 to see your “Aircraft Category Flight Review(s)” expiry date, or look on pages 10-16 if you’ve had a flight review since getting your Part 61 Licence.
|Old Expiry Date||Number of Months Extra|
|On or before 31 October 2020||3 Months|
|Between 31 October and 31 December 2020||2 Months|
|Between 31 December and 28 February 2021||1 Month|
Has your Flight Review expired? Better talk to your favourite instructor, then. Typically, a flight review will take 1-2 hours of theory/discussion and 1-2 hours of flying.
Just like the licence, the medical has the expiry date written on it. Better check it now, just in case.
That same extension CASA gave for flight reviews also covers medicals. This ones a lot easier, though:
|Old Expiry Date||New Expiry Date|
|Before 31 March 2020||Already Expired|
|On or after 31 March 2020||31 March 2021|
It is important to note that you must still comply with any conditions on your medical to use this extension (eg, regular blood tests).
If your medical has expired, you should call your DAME. Many doctors are opening up once again. Don’t forget that if you only want to perform simple operations (Day VFR, Single Engine, Private), maybe consider getting the Basic Class 2.
When Part 61 came in, CASA removed the photograph from the new licence. CASA then decided that all pilots need to carry some form of Photo ID while flying. That’s OK, carrying your ASIC or AVID should cover that requirement. You have been keeping your security clearance up-to-date, haven’t you? There were no exemptions issued for security clearances due to COVID-19.
Competent to fly
It’s been how long since you last flew? That long? Do you remember how? Will you remember what to do if an emergency arises? The answer to those question will be different for everyone. If you have any doubts, the safest thing to do it talk to your favourite instructor. The two of you should be able to work out a plan to get you back to competent. Consider using a safety pilot for your first few flights, regardless of how competent you think you are. It is also important that your safety pilot is current, competent and capable, too. They need to know what their responsibilities are as a safety pilot.
Keep in mind these two regulations:
The holder of a pilot licence is authorised to exercise the privileges of the licence in an aircraft only if the holder is competent in operating the aircraft to the standards mentioned in the Part 61 Manual of Standards for the class or type to which the aircraft belongs, including in all of the following areas:
(a) operating the aircraft’s navigation and operating systems;
(b) conducting all normal, abnormal and emergency flight procedures for the aircraft;
(c) applying operating limitations;
(d) weight and balance requirements;
(e) applying aircraft performance data, including take‑off and landing performance data, for the aircraft.
The holder of a pilot licence is authorised to pilot, during take‑off or landing, an aircraft of a particular category carrying a passenger by day only if the holder has, within the previous 90 days, in an aircraft of that category or an approved flight simulator for the purpose, conducted, by day or night:
(a) at least 3 take‑offs; and
(b) at least 3 landings;
while controlling the aircraft or flight simulator.
Aircraft Maintenance up-to-date
It’s been as much as six months since your aircraft has last flown. Does it need maintenance? The best place to look would be the maintenance release. Very, very carefully. If you’re not sure what to look for, have a read of CASA’s Maintenance Guide for Pilots, particularly Section 1, The Maintenance Release. Or talk to your instructor or LAME.
Some of the most common things that might need looking at is the 100-hourly (or annual), filter cleaning, bearing lubrication or an oil change. Be very careful about reading when the oil change is due, most engine manufacturers mandate an oil change every four months, except for very special circumstances. It might be best to talk to your LAME about what is due to be done.
Aircraft clean and safe
If the aeroplane is right to fly on paper, what about for real? If the aeroplane hasn’t moved in months, what might need to be checked? Now might be the best time to grab a bucket and sponge and give the aeroplane a good clean. This will get you thinking about (and looking at) everything on the aircraft. Was that paint bubble always there? Is there a screw missing over there?
Some of the things that might need more attention than just a normal walk-around are:
- Check the battery fluid/charge
- Check the tyre pressure
- Check the brake fluid
- Check the fuel and fuel tanks
- Check for animal nests
- Check oil/air struts are inflated
Maybe you should talk to the LAME about what to look for. If anything needs work, are you competent and legally allowed to do it? Again, talk to your LAME and read the CASA Maintenance Guide above.
Weather for my first flight back
How long has it been since you last used NAIPS to check the weather? Do you remember how to read all those GAFs, TAFs and METARs? Maybe you had better brush up on the different weather forecasts using the BOM Knowledge Centre. Don’t forget to check for NOTAMS!
What kind of weather do you think we are looking for? Maybe we had better pick a nice day. Here’s a few suggestions:
- High cloud level (at least 2000-3000 feet above aerodrome level)
- Cool temperatures (no more than about 25°C at the aerodrome)
- Gentle winds (no less than about 5 knots, no more than about 15 knots, straight down the runway, and no big gusts)
- No turbulence
You might ask, “why no less than 5 knots?” It’s simple: it is always harder to land in no wind than it is with gentle wind – you will need more runway to take-off and land. You will also have a shallower approach path, which tends to catch people out. If you are getting ready for your first landing in months, do you really want to have to use more runway? Perhaps we should wait until the conditions are really good. Don’t feel pressured to fly just because you have the day off.
In the right mindset
The most common cause of aircraft accidents is human error. If we have made sure our documents are in order, the aeroplane is all good and the weather is perfect, that just leaves us. CASA recommends using the IMSAFE mnemonic to ask ourselves if we are ready to go.
I – Illness
Is the pilot suffering from any illness or symptom of an illness which might affect them in flight?
It’s more important than ever to make sure you are healthy and symptom-free. If you have any flu-like symptoms, you still should self-isolate and get tested for COVID-19
M – Medication
Is the pilot currently taking any drugs (prescription or over-the-counter)?
S – Stress
Is the pilot overly worried about other factors in their life? The psychological pressures of everyday living can be a powerful distraction and consequently affect a pilot’s performance.
When getting back into flying, don’t push yourself to go. There’s always another day to go flying.
A – Alcohol (and other drugs)
Has the pilot consumed any drugs in the last 8 hours? Is the pilot free from all effects of those drugs, regardless of time since consuming?
F – Fatigue
Has the pilot had sufficient sleep?
E – Eating
Has the pilot been eating appropriately, have they ensured proper hydration, sustenance, and correct nutrition?
Well, it looks like everything’s ready. Have a safe flight, and make sure you have fun!