The topic was how to stay safe, a serious subject when you're talking about flying. Those gathered had plenty of experience – some well over 50 years – and amidst the comraderie and fun, everyone gave their full attention.
A group of 75 to 80 pilots participated at the FAA Safety Team (FAAST) safety training held this past Saturday at Benton Airpark. Launched in 2006, the FAAST program was designed to help reduce our country’s aviation accident rate by conveying safety principles and practices through training, outreach, and education, while establishing partnerships and encouraging the growth of a positive safety culture within the aviation community. Training seminars, which are available to both private and commercial pilots, are provided under the WINGS - Pilot Proficiency Program. Although attendance is voluntary, pilots may receive continuing education credits for attending them.
Keith Bullenger, the Assistant Division Manager who runs the regional FAA, says.“this is a safety promotion organization.”
William V. Hill, Jr., a FAST Team Lead Representative, was the trainer for the day. This was Hill's 100th consecutive safety training since its inception in 2006.
During the session, several awards from the FAA were handed out during the seminar.
Hill presented Certificates for Safety Activities to Jack Kilpatrick, a long-time pilot and owner of Redding Jet Center, and Jim Bremer.
Hill was recognized at the event by Bullenger with the FAASTeam Aviation Safety Award. The award acknowledged, among other things, Hill's “exceptional passion and leadership” in his “outstanding performance in promoting aviation safety.”
Roy Hutto, the FAASTeam Program Manager from Sacramento, said that 2013 had the best aviation safety, with the lowest number of aviation accidents.
“We know Bill's impact was significant,” he said.
Hutto and Bullenger presented an FAA internal award that's rarely given to Hill - the Division Manager’s Challenge Coin award.
Pilots from around northern California attended the training program, which was sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 157. Several groups were represented, including the Mount Shasta Ninety-Nines - an international organization of women pilots started in 1929 by Amelia Earhart. The Ninety-Nines mentor young women who want to be pilots and flight instructors and offer scholarships up to $3,000 towards flight training. A little known fact about the Ninety-Nines – they're the ones who paint the numbers on runways all over the world.
Safety was the theme of the day. It all comes down, said Hill, to pilots remembering that “you're the Pilot-in-Command. You're in charge,” he said. “Make it happen!”
During the session, a series of film clips were shown of pilots attempted landings during cross winds. At times, the film brought your heart to your mouth as you watched some of the scary “almosts” onscreen. Hill reminded the audience to remember that when in doubt, it's always wise to go around for another try.
A surprise bit of information came in a discussion of using GPS while flying. Turns out not all GPS chips are the same, or as accurate. Hill stressed the importance of checking for other planes in your area.
“You've gotta look out the window sometimes, not just depend on GPS,” he said.
Pilots have biannual reviews (every 2 years) of their performance and skills. Thus the importance of receiving regular safety training. Because of the solid quality of the training offered at WINGS events, insurance companies give pilots discounts for their participation in them.
This seminar, said Bullenger, “is one of the most important components we (at the FAA) have.”
The Safety Seminar is held on the second Saturday of every month at Benton Airfield. For information or to register for a seminar, go to www.faasafety.gov or contact William Hill at ATPBill@gmail.com.