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Vectors for Safety

March 2020

Safety Initiative Update

New Program: Combating Mental Inertia

My newest program, Combating Mental Inertia has been rolled out. Thanks to the sponsorship of Avemco Insurance, I premiered it February 29 at the Syracuse Safety Stand Down. In addition to the live course, I also created a YouTube video which can be viewed here and a free online course valid for Wings credit. Click here to enroll in the course. The free online course is a substitute for the webinar I had planned to offer in March. I am still working on getting a webinar series off the ground.

New Advanced Course Coming Soon

I have heard from many readers that they would like to have access to more advanced material, particularly in the area of aerodynamics, aircraft performance, and engines/systems. So, I am nearing completion of a new online course to meet that need. I am tentatively calling the course "Pilot's Finishing School." My goal is to take the course live on or about March 10. I will keep my subscribers informed of the launch date.

Human Factors Ground School is Back

When I launched the Human Factors Ground School course last fall, I set an end date in early February. There was an economic reason for that. I was trying out a platform that I had not used before. The platform has a monthly fee and I did not want to get locked into keeping it going if paid enrollments did not cover the cost. I was pleasantly surprised at the large number of paid enrollments and with the usability of the platform. So, I am continuing with the platform and with the Human Factors Ground School. For the few who enrolled but did not complete the program, your login is still valid if you wish to complete the course to earn your Wings credit. If you no longer have your login information, let me know and I can fix that. I will again offer my subscribers who did not take advantage of a discount the first time around a 20% discount on the course by clicking here. Remember that the course is accredited for all three Wings credits at the basic level.

Brandon's Blog

Brandon holds ATP and Flight Instructor Certificates as well as a master's degree in business. He is presently employed as a first officer for a regional airline.

Brandon Rettke can be reached at:

He also has a website:

Spring Training

by Brandon Rettke

Spring weather has arrived here in Georgia and soon will spread north. As GA pilots everywhere come out of hibernation, and as I complete my annual continuing qualification (recurrent training), I wanted to emphasize the need for GA pilots to get “spring training.”

We all know FAR 61.56 only requires pilots to accomplish a flight review every 24 calendar months with 1 hour of flight and 1 hour of ground. Parts 91K, 121, and 135 pilots, however, are required by various regulatory methods to accomplish training/checking every 12 months, with some required to have training/checking at shorter intervals. Much of this training/checking is to verify the professional pilot’s proficiency with instrument procedures and various emergencies. This is done to ensure the flying public is safe.

Professional pilots operating under these rules normally fly several hundred to 1000 hours per year, but many GA pilots only fly a few 10’s, if even, per year. If professional pilots proficient in flying and planning for emergencies are required to receive training so frequently, every GA pilot should consider a plan for their own recurrent training as they begin their flying year.

With many GA pilots flying such few hours per year, skills are easy to lose, and frequently 1 hour of flight training every 2 years with little or no flying in between is not enough to ensure you are safe and proficient.

Here are a number of areas, with reasons why, I see pilots lose skill and aeronautical decision making.

  1. Poor ATC communications – not flying at towered airports or getting flight following
  2. No cross-country planning – GPS has led to a lack of fuel planning
  3. Cross-wind landings – only flying on calm days
  4. Slow stall recovery and/or bad recovery technique – startle and surprise, not practicing stalls regularly
  5. 5. Engine failure – startle and surprise, not practicing, and not briefing yourself on various engine failure scenarios before each flight

As much as it may irritate CFIs that teach for a living, at many airport across the country you can find an instructor like me, willing to fly with you free of charge so that you can do spring training. Spending most of my time flying transport category jets, I’m a sucker for someone asking me to come fly with them in their 2 or 4 seat airplane. I crave experiencing some “real flying” from time to time.

The FAA is concerned about the lives of passengers and requires proficient professional pilots to receive annual training. Now is the time to think about you and your family’s lives, and to remember what Gene says, “Always fly like YOUR life depends on it!”

Shawn's Blog

Shawn Benson is a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with a BS degree in Aviation Maintenance Management. He holds FAA certifications including A&P, IA, and Private Pilot. He has more than twenty-five years experience in the aviation industry including both airline and general aviation. (Yes, we are related. Shawn is my son and has agreed to share some practical aviation maintenance advice with us from time-to-time.) Shawn can be reached at

Aircraft Tire Pressure – Back to Basics

by: Shawn Benson

Aircraft tires are another one of the items that are routinely neglected during pre-flights and aircraft maintenance in general aviation. Major fatal accidents over the years have been a result of improper preflight / maintenance of aircraft tires, specifically in regard to proper tire pressure.

We all get complacent with inspecting and maintaining aircraft tires. On some aircraft, wheel pants prevent easy access to the tire. Sometimes access is easy if we get down on our hands and knees under the wing but, the prospect of getting ourselves back up is not so pretty.

Some airplanes are currently in hibernation and still need the tire pressure checked. Any aircraft tire that has leaked down to less than 90% of specified pressure should be removed if the airplane was moved with an under inflated tire. If tire pressure is below 80%, even if the airplane was not moved, the tire should be removed. If you operate a larger aircraft with dual wheels, the mate tire must also be changed. Damage to the tire due to sidewall deflection has most likely occurred.

As part of your preflight planning, do you consider tire pressure? For each 5°F temperature change an aircraft tire pressure will change by 1%. As temperature decreases, pressure also decreases. Seems trivial in small airplanes but it can have an impact when you land. Here is an example, you are flying from Daytona Beach, FL to Nashville, TN. In Daytona it is sunny and 80°F and Nashville it is wet and 30°F. The temperature at the landing airport is 50°F cooler, so tire pressure will be reduced by 10% (the maximum allowable amount). The airframe manufacturer requires 40 psi of tire pressure. If the tires were properly inflated at departure (40 psi), you will land at 36 psi (90% inflation). This assumes no leakage in flight etc. Now suppose during the preflight you determined that the tires “looked ok” or used an uncalibrated tire pressure gauge. For sake of discussion, let’s say the tire pressure was actually 38 psi at departure. Upon landing the tire pressure would be 34.2 psi, which is below 86% inflation (below 90% replace the tire and tube).

Landing with an underinflated tire can be the start of an interesting rollout. The tire will generate additional heat very quickly. Landing on a wet surface with low tire pressure increases the chance of hydroplaning. Reduced tire pressure combined with a high load landing or heavy initial braking can cause tire separation from the wheel and in extreme cases retract gear collapse.

Remember if you are flying from a cold location to a warmer landing airport tire pressure will increase. It is important to maintain the proper tire pressure range for both the departure and destination airport. Always plan to ensure tire pressure is above 90% specified tire pressure at the destination airport.

Tire over inflation is also problematic. Over inflated tires are more susceptible to Foreign Object Damage (FOD) and faster/irregular wear patterns.

It is time to get back to basics with aircraft tires. The most important and easiest thing to do to prevent tire‐related events is to maintain proper inflation pressure. Below are some best practices to consider:

  1. Check tire pressure before the first flight of the day with an accurate tire pressure gauge.
  2. If not flying regularly, maintain tire pressure or jack the aircraft to take the weight off the tires.
  3. Service tires to the highest pressure provided by the airframe manufacturer.
  4. Compensate tire pressure target value for a change in ambient temperature at destination airports.
Notes from Being Better

People Don’t Change – Or Do They?

Once, as a middle-manager, I had a boss who was adamant that people did not change. He was very firm in his belief that any employee exhibiting undesirable traits should be replaced without any effort to improve the employee’s performance. That policy would not be acceptable today with our litigious society and the present shortage of qualified workers. But at the time, we terminated several employees who potentially could have been salvaged. Read more...

Gene's blog

I just rolled out a new program titled, “Combating Mental Inertia.” A frequently occurring phrase in the probable cause finding of NTSB accident reports led me to the concept for the program. That phrase includes, “…the pilot’s decision to continue…” I have been studying and writing about human decision making for several years, so reading this phrase over and over got my attention.

I searched the NTSB accident database, going back twenty years, for the phrase “decision to continue” and received 283 hits. I limited the search general aviation and to airplanes. I did not explore other categories of aircraft. When the word continue was replaced by the words fly, operate, and enter, and additional 207 accidents were identified. The same factor was involved in most of these additional accidents. A pilot decided to complete a planned flight when evidence existed that the plan should be modified or scrapped. Most of the accidents involved an in-flight decision but some involved a preflight decision. The overwhelming in-flight decision involved continuing into weather that was beyond the capabilities of the pilot or the airplane. Preflight decisions included, of course, weather, but also a surprisingly high number involved deciding to fly with known aircraft maintenance issues.

I donned my human factors hat and went to work. Part of our humanness is a cognitive bias called either continuation bias or continuation blindness. The bias shows that humans are genetically wired to complete a task once it is planned or begun. It is a survival trait going back at least to Neanderthal Man. Once prey was spotted, the hunt needed to continue so that a meal could be secured. If an accident report existed, it might list the probable cause as the hunter’s decision to continue chasing prey as the prey went over a cliff.

To make my new program more relatable to pilots, I drew an analogy to something familiar to most pilots which is inertia. We know that mass and velocity determine inertia in physical objects, so I associate the perceived importance of the task with mass and the perceived urgency of the task with velocity. I call the force mental inertia. Since I provide mitigation strategies, I titled the program “Combating Mental Inertia.” Clever? Thank you. I thought so too.

The program is now available on YouTube here and as a free online course (valid for Wings credit) here.

Accident Analysis

This month's featured accident analysis continues the theme of "The pilot's decision to continue..."


On March 25, 2017, about 1433 central daylight time, a Cessna T210L, N6563D, was destroyed during an uncontrolled descent and subsequent in-flight breakup near Hayden, Alabama. The private pilot and three passengers were fatally injured. Read more...

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