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Charity Flying

Charity Flying

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Published by Yusuke Shimma

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Published by: Yusuke Shimma on Feb 21, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Safe Pilots. Safe Skies.www.asf.org
But that doesn’t mean that a charity fundraisingflight is just like any other trip that you, as someonewho doesn’t fly for a living, might take. Regulationsaside, the minute you agree to carry paying mem-bers of the general public (even if they’re not pay-ing
everything changes. You cease to be regu-lar old Joe Smith, and become “Captain” Joe Smith. You assume even greater responsibility for the livesof the people you’re carrying. You implicitly agreeto provide them the safest flight possible—noexceptions.Sadly, over the years, a few pilots have failed to takethat responsibility seriously, and lives have been lost as a result. Being a “captain” isn’t easy. It calls for aclear understanding of obligations and an activecommitment to reducing risk. Fortunately, as withmost flying, the risks of charity operations are fairlypredictable.
Ever flown passengers to raise money for charity?Whether you know it or not, you’ve accepted a greater level of responsibility.
Under certain circumstances, the FAA allows pri-vate pilots to carry paying passengers during charityfundraising events. That’s a departure from thenormal rules: In most situations where passengersare paying for a flight, the FAA requires the pilot tohold a commercial certificate. In the case of charityfundraising flights, however, the FAA feels that thepublic benefits justify extending the privilege toprivate pilots.
Number 5
Charity Flying
Remember: Your passengers paid for a flight, not anaccident. Youprimary goal is to keep them safe.
Safe Pilots. Safe Skies.2www.asf.org
Safety Issues
If you participate in fundraising flights, there’s a goodchance you have a personal interest in helping thecharity raise money. More passengers equals moremoney, and that can make it tempting to overload theairplane. It’s easy to say “Sure, hop in” to that extrapassenger…but, unfortunately, it’s not easy to retract the invitation when you’re struggling to climb overtrees at the end of the runway.To avoid finding yourself in a situation like that, doyour preflight “homework”—and then stand yourground. What’s the density altitude? How long is therunway? How much fuel is aboard? How muchweight’s in the cabin, and how is it distributed? Don’t rely on guesswork: Be conservative with your calcula-tions, and remember that heavy airplanes behave dif-ferently than lightly loaded ones. Standing your groundmeans being prepared to say “no” to that extra pas-senger who doesn’t understand why he can’t ridealong in the empty seat. You may think you’re doinghim a favor by relenting, but he (and his lawyers)won’t see it that way if something goes wrong.While we’re talking payload, it’s crucial to make surethere’s always plenty of fuel aboard—never less thanan
’s worth on landing. It seems like a no-brainer,but in the hustle and bustle of quick turns and passen-ger loading/unloading, it’s all too easy to lose track of fuel quantity. Also remember that fuel consumption willprobably be higher than normal, since sightseeingflights involve repeated climbs and relatively low alti-tude (i.e., rich mixture) cruise.In-flight maneuvering is another “gotcha.” If you’veever carried first-time flyers, you know how they loveto look at things on the ground. They want to take pic-tures of the house, wag the wings at Grandma—youname it. That’s fine, but doing it safely means stayingon your toes and giving yourself wide margins. Resist entreaties to drop down, tighten up a turn, or kick out the tail to give passengers a better view. If you get intoan accelerated stall at low altitude, you’ve got a seriousproblem. If it develops into a spin, it’s game over. Inyour mind, apply the same “filter” to every passengerrequest: Does this add risk?That brings us to the topic of in-flight distractions.Most of us are accustomed to flying with people whounderstand basic cockpit etiquette. Unfortunately,the same level of consideration can’t always beexpected of passengers in a charity flight situation.They may not know, for example, that they should bequiet during takeoff and landing, or that it’s not appropriate to fight with their siblings in the backseat. We’ll be blunt: You may be flying an expensive
Before each flight, brief passengers on cockpit etiquette and safety— for example, being quiet during takeoff and landing, fastening and unfastening seatbelts, and exiting the aircraft in an emergency.
Safe Pilots. Safe Skies.3www.asf.org
airplane, and demonstrating an uncommon skill, but in the passengers’ eyes you’re probably just the “dri-ver.” So be the driver. Avoid unpleasant surprises bybriefing the passengers ahead of time, but don’t let down your guard. Whatever happens, your first job isto fly the airplane.
 You’re the PIC
Hopefully, by now you’ve gotten the idea that charityfundraising flights are different from the typical triparound the traffic pattern. Even more than usual, it’scritical to remember that you are the pilot in com-mand—a term that shouldn’t be thrown around lightly.It’s your obligation to say “no” if asked to do somethingthat could put the safety of your passengers at risk.It’s also your obligation to know the differencebetween what you see as an acceptable risk and oneyour passengers would want you to take (if they knewall the facts). To remove any doubt, we strongly recom-mend giving yourself extra safety margins. Think of it asswitching over from your personal minimums to your“airline” minimums. For example, if you’re normallywilling to fly with 15 knots of crosswind, maybe youknock 30 percent off that number for charity flights. If you’ll normally fly when the ceiling and visibility arenear VFR minimums, maybe you double or triple thosenumbers (passengers are more comfortable whenthere’s a distinct horizon). Don’t push ahead in margin-al weather just to keep things running on schedule.
Add an extra margin to all of your personal mini- mums—wind, ceiling,visibility, etc.—whendoing charity flights.
Charity flying accidents are, fortunately, very rare.When they do happen, though, the consequences forall involved (and particularly the innocent passengerswho simply signed up for a fun ride) can be severe. Inone accident, a Cessna 172 carrying two passengerscollided with trees after hitting a downdraft during itsinitial climb. According to the NTSB accident report,the pilot neglected to account for changing weatherconditions at the time of the flight. Fortunately, allaboard survived the accident, albeit with seriousinjuries.Sadly, things don’t always turn out that well. In amore recent fundraising accident, the pilot of aBeech Bonanza lost engine power shortly after take-off and, in an apparent attempt to circle back andland on the departure runway, stalled the aircraft at low altitude. The resulting impact killed him—andhis two paying passengers—instantly. The NTSBdetermined that the engine failed due to fuelexhaustion or starvation. Had the pilot simplychecked his fuel quantity before takeoff and fol-lowed aircraft operating limitations, he and his pas-sengers would probably be alive today.
Dire Consequences
In 2004, a Wisconsin pilot giving sightseeingrides clipped power lines while flying down ariver at low altitude. He survived the ensuingcrash, but his passenger wasn’t so lucky. Inaddition to the “normal” repercussions (FAAenforcement action; finding of fault by theNTSB), the pilot was charged with negligent homicide by the state. The outcome is stillpending, but if convicted he faces up to 10years in prison and $25,000 in fines.

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