Normally we preflight the aircraft thoroughly before we are about to go flying with it. But how about the pilot? Did you take a good look at yourself beforehand and are you able to do the intended flight? Pilot self assessment is very important to make sure you are safe for flight!
We must not forget that the same principles apply to our passengers too, I believe that no pilot intentionally wishes to have a sick passenger on board as this might be a risk to the health of those involved.
You as the pilot must assess yourself to check if you suffer from any illness, are using any medication or are even still under influence due to a party the night before and haven't had enough sleep to be fully rested and capable of flying. This is serious stuff as you are the only one able to fly and land safely.
How are we doing?
As is the case during preflight of an aircraft, where you check certain items involved with its airworthiness, with humans is almost the same and the I'm safe checklist is especially developed for this purpose. Which you can see below:
|The "I'm safe" checklist|
|Illness?||Do I have any symptoms that would affect your ability to fly today? Did you eat adequately? Feeling feverish or having a cold? These symptoms affect your decision ability.|
|Medication?||Are you using any kind of prescription or drugs? Using any medication is usually a no-go item for a pilot.|
|Stress?||Am I under psychological pressure from the job or home? Any worries about financial, health or family problems? These vie for your attention, even during the flight.|
|Alcohol?||Have I been drinking within eight or ten hours? Or within 24 hours before you started with planning the flight at hand?|
|Fatigue?||Am I tired and not adequately rested? Lack of rest may result in impaired decision making, difficulty with motor skills and concentration problems possibly resulting in an accident.|
|Experience||What is your level of currency with the aircraft in question and your when was your biennial flight review? Did you not perform three takeoffs and landings recently?|
Below an explanation of some of these factors:
Illness and medication
Every pilot must prove his physical health every now and then before a medical examiner. This gives you a basic airworthiness certificate its up to you to preflight your health for the flight of the day. A slight cold requiring minor medication may become a serious issue when you fly at higher altitudes.
This factor has a unpredictable effect on the performance of the pilot, ranging from total boredom to complete panic or anxiety and somewhere in the middle the pilot performs at his ultimate peak.
The effects of alcohol might carry over well into the next morning, depending on the amount used, age and your physical condition. The 8 hours from bottle to the throttle rule is to be used as a guidance only and the actual time to recover might be longer, especially with older pilots.
This may become a factor on long flights or pilot working/flying many flights a day, (e.g. flight instructors and airline crew). The private pilot flying one or two hours a week or less must keep an eye on external fatigue factors relating to work, family, money and others.
Fatigue affects a pilot much like alcohol but is much more sneaky before it becomes a serious factor.
Preflight yourself as carefully as you preflight your airplane before any flight, if one of the questions above can be answered positively then you might want to reconsider the flight. If you have any doubt, do not go!
Remember that it basically comes down to this: Either you fly safe or you don't do the flight at all.
If you fly a lot of sightseeing trips with passengers not accustomed to the flight environment with changing wind and weather conditions it would be wise to 'preflight' them too. Not physically, but by taking a good look at them and asking them questions relating to the 'I'm safe' checklist.
This will give you an general idea if they can handle the trip, you need to keep in mind that you will introduce them into an environment they are usually not familiar with. Explain the current weather conditions and what effect that might have on their well being. Should any have problems with motion sickness, it is best to discover that before the flight commences.
They will thank you for that!