In this guide, we will look at some of the most common as well as a few rare parts of flying that can be dangerous if not handled properly.
Many people perceive flying an aircraft as fun and rewarding, which it is – but it also comes with its fair share of risks and dangers.
Manoeuvring an aircraft requires extensive skills and practice, without which many things can go wrong and cause either discomfort or even threatening consequences. In this guide, we will look at some of the most common as well as a few rare parts of flying that can be dangerous if not handled properly.
COMPONENTS OF FLIGHT
Before we move on to the most dangerous parts when learning to fly a plane, let’s look at the basic components of a flight that every pilot must go through. Every flight can be broken down into six sections:
This is when the aircraft taxis around the runway and moves itself to the designated area from where the ATC signals to the pilot that the aircraft is clear for take-off.
Before take-off, both the captain and the first officer go through the required protocols set by the CAA to ensure that the aircraft and its systems are functioning normally. These pre-flight checks are extremely important and can help highlight issues that can prevent disaster.
Once the ATC clears the aircraft for take-off, the pilots engage the engines and the aircraft starts to gain speed. Once the plane takes off, the pilots begin ascending to reach the required altitude.
During this phase, the aircraft simply ascends to cruising altitude. Pilots will also retract the landing gear and keep an eye on airspeed and altitude while the aircraft ascends.
This is usually also when the aircraft might encounter turbulence, which is simply caused by a disturbance in the air currents. Turbulence, although not threatening, may cause discomfort if it causes significant shakes.
Once the aircraft achieves the right altitude, it starts to cruise, which conserves fuel and is the ideal state for the aircraft.
Every aircraft has a different cruising altitude depending on its size, weight, and specifications. It is also important to keep in mind that even when cruising, the aircraft will remain in contact with the Air Traffic Control (ATC) which may update the pilots for course correction or altitude changes.
The descent stage is when the aircraft moves down from cruising altitude and prepares for landing. Just like the take-off stage, the aircraft may also encounter turbulence during this phase. After performing all the required protocols, the pilots will lower the landing gear and prepare the plane for landing.
In some cases, the plane may also be required to perform a “go around” where the aircraft will move within the vicinity of the runway until they get approval to land from the ATC.
During the final descent, the pilots will use the instruments on board to carefully manoeuvre the aircraft down to the runway. Once the wheels touch the ground, the pilots will follow the required landing protocols to slow down the aircraft and bring it to a halt.
All of these sections make up the components of flight for small private planes, and even large passenger or cargo aircraft. Each section has its own risks and dangers, and in order to understand them better, we will have to go over a few dangerous situations that can negatively affect the flight of an aircraft.
FACTORS THAT AFFECT FLIGHT
Here are some of the most common factors that can negatively impact or endanger a flight:
Challenges During Take Off
The take-off is nerve-wracking for most passengers, but in capable hands, a pilot can very easily and almost effortlessly take the plane off the tarmac.
However, there are a few things that pilots need to keep in mind during take-off. For example, knowing the performance limitations and details related to the weight and balance of the aircraft are crucial.
Pilots must get the right “feel” for the aircraft and follow all the required protocols, which include pre-flight checks, before taking off. Once the wheels are off the tarmac, the pilot must carefully monitor the ascent and regularly keep an eye on the airspeed, air traffic, and altitude.
A failure on the pilot’s part or a failure of an instrument during this phase of the flight can result in severe consequences to not just the aircraft but the passengers as well.
Weather is singlehandedly the first and foremost factor that can have a direct influence on the flight. Bad weather conditions like high winds and temperature can destabilise a plane and may even cause severe issues like icing.
Icing occurs when the moisture in the air condenses and freezes over the body of the plane. While some icing might not be harmful, if there is an accumulation of ice, especially over the engine, it can cause a lot of trouble for the pilot.
Even though modern aircraft are equipped with special countermeasures to handle icing problems, smaller planes, like that for private pilots, do not have these advanced systems which can make this a huge problem.
Furthermore, the uneven distribution of air and wind speeds can also cause turbulence. While most planes are designed to fly through turbulence with ease, the pilot must also have the skill to manoeuvre the aircraft out of the turbulent air.
Heavy rain and thunderstorms are points of concern for pilots. Particularly bad weather in the form of thunderstrikes can be extremely dangerous for aircraft, especially when taking off or landing.
Flying in the Dark
You might have seen planes soar across the sky during a starry night and marvelled at the sight. But flying in the dark isn’t as peaceful as one might think, especially in certain conditions.
Flying at night means that the pilot is operating with limited visibility. So, pilots rely on onboard instruments to guide them towards their destination. This type of flying is called instrument flying and is a core course for any pilot programme.
Night-time flights can pose a lot of serious issues, particularly when taking off or landing. For example, bird strikes can be very dangerous at night due to limited visibility. Birds can be attracted towards bright lights and they can even come in the way of aircraft.
If birds hit the plane near the engine or windshield, this can result in serious mechanical damage. While experienced pilots are usually well-versed in the protocol of dealing with bird strikes, less-trained pilots may not be able to successfully manoeuvre out of the situation.
Emergencies During Flight
Another dangerous part of flying a plane is coming to terms with the fact that at any moment, the pilot may be forced into a situation where they will have to make an emergency landing.
These emergencies are rare and usually only result from either catastrophic damage to the aircraft or during unavoidable and risky situations. However, all pilots are expected to train according to every type of situation possible.
An emergency landing can be extremely dangerous and may not always be successful. This is where the pilot's experience and training come in.
Pilots must carefully assess the situation and make a decision to either continue flying or land an aircraft. In both cases, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) may hold the pilot accountable and launch a detailed investigation into the matter.
Furthermore, a pilot may be forced to land due to a health-related emergency or due to the unruly behaviour of a passenger.
Managing air traffic is perhaps one of the most challenging parts of aviation. Although the bulk of traffic is managed on the ground via ATC personnel, the pilot also has to keep a close eye on air traffic and carefully follow protocol and listen to the instructions from the ATC.
Air traffic is a serious challenge in metropolitan cities like London, where countless aircraft are either coming in or going out. Pilots are expected to be extremely attentive in order to avoid serious mishaps that can happen either on the ground or in mid-air.
The role of the ATC is to lead the aircraft to its take-off point on a runway, give it the go-ahead to take off, guide it through its destination during flight, adjust its course if needed, and to safely land the aircraft at its destination.
Flying Over Risky Terrain
Both flying over mountain ranges and large water bodies can pose a challenge for pilots, especially in an aircraft with mechanical damage. During these high-stress situations, pilots are expected to take quick decisions and carefully follow protocol to minimise the risk of a crash.
Flying over mountains, especially at night can be particularly challenging. Pilots are expected to use all the instrument data onboard to make calculated decisions, especially when they are required to make sudden manoeuvres.
Similarly, flying over large water bodies, like oceans, can pose a serious underlying risk. In the event of instrument or engine failure, the pilot will have to make very tough decisions on how to land the plane safely and then how to guide passengers out of the situation.
Modern planes are truly a marvel and an excellent marriage of engineering and technology. But with technology also comes the chance of failure. Although aircraft are built with several redundancies to mitigate risk, a total instrument failure of any component is not out of the question.
This is why pilots are rigorously trained to counteract several instrument-related issues so that they can both guide the plane in the right direction and land it safely.
It is important to note that instrument failure can result from either external or internal damage to the aircraft. It can also result from electrical issues and may even arise from problems that failed to show up during the inspection of the aircraft.
Loss of fuel or communications can also make for a very challenging situation for the pilot where they will essentially have to fly on their own without advice from ATC personnel.
Challenges of Landing an Aircraft
Although modern aircraft possess advanced technologies to aid pilots during landing, the landing can also pose serious challenges, especially if something goes wrong.
For example, a pilot may have to deal with turbulence, icing, bird strikes, or other hazards while descending for the runway. Once near the runway, the pilot is expected to follow all the required protocols and keep an eye on the landing gear status while landing.
Landing can be tricky, especially if the aircraft has experienced instrument or engine failure, and even the slightest miscalculation or error on the pilot’s part can result in disaster.
MITIGATING RISK THROUGH PROPER TRAINING
While several factors can affect an aircraft during any of the flight phases described above, overcoming these challenges all comes down to the training and mindset of the pilot.
This is why flight schools have such a huge responsibility. Not only do they need to train the pilots through rigorous practical exercises and hours of flight training, but they also have to build the right mindset of pilots so that they can overcome these challenges with the least amount of stress.
Flight schools, like Sherburn Aero Club, have a staff of highly trained and experienced instructors that have not only a great track record of flying, but also have valuable experience in overcoming some of the challenges that we have discussed above.
In the context of minimising risks, flight schools may also offer simulation training which is considered to be one of the most important training modules in aviation. A simulator is a large machine that uses advanced technologies to simulate the conditions of flight in a grounded cockpit.
Simulators are used to put trainees in difficult situations or situations that require an altered set of protocols to overcome. This type of training helps the pilot gain significant insight into what to do and more importantly, what not to do during high-stress situations.
Apart from training, the wisdom and knowledge that instructors impart to flight candidates also help produce a capable and quick-thinking pilot. A calm demeanour is not just recommended but required for all types of pilots.
WHY CHOOSE SHERBURN AERO CLUB?
If you don’t know where to start then you need a flight school like Sherburn Aero Club to guide you through the entire process of any type of flight programme.
With us, you can begin your career in aviation or even take to the skies as a hobby. Sherburn’s flight training school offers private and commercial licences, along with pilot medicals to ensure a smooth journey going forward. Sherburn also offers dedicated simulation training with a purpose-built simulator.
With a large fleet of new aircraft and an airfield refurbishment with new runways, hangars, and an extended clubhouse, Sherburn caters to brand-new flyers who have just started their journey to the skies, as well as seasoned flyers who have been operating aircraft for decades.
Sherburn Aero Club, which has been operational since 1964, is the ideal place for most of your training and flying needs. It is one of the largest flying clubs in the North of England and also one of the largest in the country.
For those who wish to experience the thrill of a flight for fun or to help fuel their aviation dreams, Sherburn offers experience flights for the newbie, as well as the veteran.
The flight experience option is also available for people who wish to take to the skies for special occasions, even if they aren’t into aviation in the long run.
Sherburn also offers a dedicated day-long Flight Radiotelephony Operator’s Licence (FRTOL) course for those wishing to get the certification, running the first Sunday of every month.
In addition to that, if you are looking for a hangarage for your own aircraft, need servicing or repairs, want to buy a new aircraft or aviation equipment, or are just looking to enjoy and watch the aircraft, Sherburn Aero Club is the place to be.
Call us on 01977 682 674, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or message us via our online contact form for more information on learning how to fly a plane and overcoming the challenges that come with it!