Remembering to ask: What If?

For Airspeed’s first guest post, Steve Tupper invited Ron Klutts to write a great essay composed of his thoughts concerning the February 17th crash of a Cessna 310 near his home. Ron knew the pilot, a commercial rated CFI, and what was supposed to be an hour and fifty minute flight only lasted a minute.

Hence, Ron begins his essay by saying that takeoffs are always a surprise. The reason? Simply put, take-offs are optional but landings are clearly not optional. Ron also admits that doing passenger pre-start safety briefings and departure briefings has always felt awkward along with talking to himself when doing various callouts during the take-off roll. However, he has still continued to perform these tasks.

Ron then mentions the importance of setting some personal minimums and then sticking to them. In addition, he points out that part of preparedness is to plan for the time when things do go wrong. In other words:

    • What are the action items for an electrical system failure?
    • What if the vacuum system failed?
    • What if an engine failed?
    • What if my engine fails at 200’? At 500’? At 1000’?
    • What if any of these occur in IMC?
    • Each altitude has different action plans and alternatives. Are we ready for each?
    • Have YOU asked WHAT IF? What if?….. What if?….

Ron then writes that he hopes that he will be surprised at his next take-off. Why? Because he would like to think that he has practiced the right “what if” for a given situation as that is what safe pilots do. Hence and at the end of his essay, Ron puts forward the question: “Are YOU thinking WHAT IF?” Definitely something to think about the next time you choose the option of taking off into the sky.


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