The Take Away
Had the pilots of Comair flight 5191, checked their HATs at the door, there might not have been an accident that morning. But another thing that contributed to the accident chain was the fact that the pilots did not maintain a “sterile cockpit”. Under part 121 of the CFRs they were mandated to do this, but pilots operating under part 91 are not. However we should all take note, that if a “sterile cockpit” works real well in an airline cockpit, we would be well advised to adopt a similar policy in the cockpits of the aircraft that we fly.
If all of us were to embrace the concept of limiting our cockpit conversations with our passengers, to only those things “essential” to the safety of flight whenever we are operating, not only in the air, within the airport area, but on the ground as well, the safety of everyone would be improved exponentially. We just can’t be as effective as we need to be in all the sundry things that require our attention prior to takeoff, and during the climb out, when we are engaged in conversations about the wife and kids, yesterday’s ball game, or the latest and greatest joke. So please brief your passengers on the “sterile cockpit” concept. If we want to remain pliant, we need to be silent. (Of course this is just as important during our arrival, as it is in the departure.)
The accident in Lexington was a tragedy, made more so by the fact that it was so easily preventable. Hopefully we can take the lessons learned from analyzing the mistakes those pilots made and apply them to our own flying. Remember how important it is to insure that you are departing on the correct runway. Run a HAT check (or its equivalent) prior to takeoff. Maintain a “sterile cockpit” whenever you are in an airport environment. Doing these things will help insure that you experience many more days of... blue skies and tailwinds.