Safety Management Systems…..
You’ve probably heard the buzz words Safety Management Systems or its acronym SMS. SMS is a method of managing and reducing risk. There maybe a long, formal, process for doing this or it could be something simple. Truth be told, simple works. One of the pillars of SMS is developing Standard Operating Procedures or SOPs. Part of SOPs are developing policies that dictate when, where, and how we fly. Another name for that could be Personal Minimums.
The term Personal Minimums has been around for a long time. The FAA encourages everyone to develop their own set of personal minimums. These are the policies that you set for yourself. For example we can legally fly in Class G airspace with 1 mile vis and clear of clouds, helicopters in less than that. What are your minimums for Class G airspace?
Some of the scenarios I use in my check ride will get you to discuss your personal minimums. Lately, I’ve been kind of concerned about the lack of development in individual personal minimums. For example I’ll set up a night flight scenario with ceilings at 3000 feet with light rain forecasted but the visibilities will be around 4 to 5 miles. It’s interesting to note that private applicants with just a mere 3 hours at night, are ok with flying in these conditions. I can pull out any number of fatal accidents with just these conditions.
So just what are YOUR personal minimums? Think about it and wright them down, these will be your Standard Operating Procedures. As you gain ratings and experience you can adjust your SOPs.
I know one pilot who, early in his career, would launch off with his new instrument rating in weather down to 200 feet and ½ visibility in an IFR equipped C-150. He’s a good pilot and never had any problems. Ask that same pilot what is personal minimums are for single engine IFR and he will tell you 1000 feet and 3 miles. Why, you may ask? He’ll tell you we have a lot of redundancy in our aircraft but in a single engine airplane we only have one engine. If that engine stops I’ll be gliding in the soup. When I break out of the clouds, I want to be able to glide to a safe landing area. Do you think I can do that with weather of 200 and a ½?