Aviators And Observers

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Pablo Edronkin

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Survival Gear and Equipment

Whenever a small aircraft is used for reconnaisance and observation, no matter what the purpose may be, some precautions should be taken into account.

You may be trying to locate missing persons, the place of an accident, observing an oil rig, trying to take pictures, hunt from above, going after a couple of bank robbers racing away in a car, etc. and indeed, a small gyrocopter, helicopter or GA airplane may prove to be the ideal platform for you. But oddly enough, such apparently innocent and simple jobs have proven statistically to be among the most dangerous in the avition community. So, in order to avoid rather painful incidents, here are some recommendations for you:

- The two main causes for accidents involving observation aircraf are pilot distractions and the fall from the cockpit, mainly in the case of the observers that ride along thos who fly the machines.

- The pilot should never be doing both jobs at the same time; the one who flies the aircraft should be doing that and watching its surroundings in order to fly safely. The observer - that is, the person who looks outside, aims weapons, takes pictures, etc. - should have a good idea about how the machine flies and what the pilot is doing, but it must be somebody else. Too often, particularly flying over in rugged terrain, the pilot gets distracted wathcing what the observer should be watching… and then hits a hill, stalls or something like that.

- The pilot, the observer, and all the associated gear must be properly secured at all times, but particularly whenever a door or window is opened. Nobody should unfasten his seat belt or harness in order to move around better because a little turbulence, a violent manoeuver, etc. may toss gear and people out of the cockpit.

- It is obvious that aircraft performing dangerous jobs should carry some sort of survival gear and pilots flying shuch missions must fill a flight plane before each time they go out in order to be able to count on search and rescue services if the need arises.

- If the job involves the use of dangerous equipment, like guns, security measures should be enforced by the numbers. Never move around inside the cockpit with - say - a loaded and unlocked rifle, never point it at the flying crew or vital parts of the plane, and be very careful, whenever aiming or pointing them outside, to do so in such a way as to avoid compromising the structural integrity of the aircraft in the event of an accidental shot or something like that.

- If possible, pilots and observers should know well each other and understand what they are doing.

- While the pilot should indeed listen to the observer and follow his requests once they are flying over the area of interest, it must be rememebered that it is indeed, the pilot who is in command of the plane and this status remains so during the whole flight, no matter what. Even if the observer is the owner of the aircraft it is the pilot who is in charge and the needs of the job may not compromise the security of the flight.

- Minimum tolerances should be respected: Visibility, altitude and manoeuvering space.

There will be variants in safety rules depending on each specifi case, but these suggestions cover, broadly speaking, most of the requirements related to reconnaisance work.

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