Ag flying has always interested me because it is one of the last bastions of professional stick and rudder flying. Sure, technology has infiltrated the cockpit, but here it replaces the flagman (human or otherwise) who helps the pilot apply even coverage—not the pilot. Coordinating hand and eye and concentration still counts for something over farm fields.
This interest led me to act on an FAA Safety Team email that said: “You now have a new email preference to choose in your My Preferences Email Settings. If you are interested in receiving information about Aerial Application or Agricultural Operations, go to your My Preferences page and check that box. When Aerial Application information is emailed from FAASafety.gov, you will get a copy. It’s that easy!”
After signing up for the Aerial Application information, I decided to search the FAA Safety website to see what it had on the subject. First up was a link to the Risk Management Handbook H8383-2. Hmm? Never heard of it.
Clicking the link I learned that this 112-page manual was published in 2009 for, as the preface said, “pilots of all aircraft from Weight-Shift Control (WSC) to a Piper Cub, a Twin Beechcraft, or a Boeing 747” because a “pilot’s continued interest in building skills is paramount for safe flight and can assist in rising above the challenges which face pilots of all backgrounds.”
A quick scan of its pages reveals tools pilots can use to evaluate their surroundings and assess pertinent risks, the first step in managing and mitigating those risks for a healthy outcome.
Creating the handbook was a team effort, led by Flight Standards with the assistance of Safety Research Corporation of America. Dr. Pat Veillette contributed the human behavior information in chapter 2. Cessna and Garmin provided the images used throughout, and AOPA, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, and NBAA provided technical support and input.
The handbook is subdivided into eight chapters: Chapter 1—Defining Elements of Risk Management; Chapter 2—Human Behavior; Chapter 3—Identifying and Mitigating Risk; Chapter 4—Assessing Risk; Chapter 5—Aeronautical Decision-Making: A Basic Staple; Chapter 6—Single-Pilot Resource Management; Chapter 7—Automation; Chapter 8—Risk Management Training.
Because it is antipodal to ag flying, I jumped first to Chapter 7—Automation. Most interesting was the summation of a 1995 study by Patrick R. Veillette and R. Decker on the erosion of manual flight skills due to automation. It happens, and quite quickly, it seems.
Given the recent “diversion” of that Northwest Airlines flight that sailed past its destination, a word search of the new handbook didn’t assess the risks of cockpit debates or naps. It’s only mention of sleep and risk management was making sure the pilot has enough before takeoff. Maybe the FAA will include something on that when they revise the handbook. –Scott Spangler