CAP’s safety record is well below the national average for GA accidents — at a low average of two accidents per 100,000 flight hours. Keeping the world’s largest fleet of single-engine piston aircraft ready to respond requires a deliberately shaped safety culture. One of the key components of this is the required process of risk management that involves the pilot and a designated flight release officer (FRO).
“Before a flight, the pilot must complete an operational risk management (ORM) worksheet and have a telephone conversation with an FRO that covers the risk level — low, moderate, or high — from the ORM worksheet numerical score,” explains Heather Metzler, a volunteer CAP pilot and FAA Safety Team Program Manager at the Little Rock Flight Standards District Office (FSDO). “The FRO then tracks the flight. And when the flight is complete, the pilot contacts the FRO to report safely landing at destination.”
The ORM worksheet is a flight risk assessment tool (FRAT), which is a safety enhancement topic of interest outlined by the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC). CAP’s worksheet assigns points based on risks in five areas:
- Human — experience, training, currency, health, and crew rest.
- Machine — maintenance, performance, and radio communications.
- Mission — operations tempo and search complexity.
- Environment — weather, terrain, VFR/IFR, and airfield familiarity.
- Additional Factors — forced landing simulations or engine cuts during checkride, overwater distance, and overwater temperature.
“The ORM worksheet allows for a repeatable and comprehensive review of hazards and risks prior to each flight,” notes Jeffrey Smith, a volunteer CAP pilot and part of the FAA’s Flight Standards Service Compliance Philosophy Focus Team.
You may think that this is a lot of paperwork, but it is a process designed to let you truly assess your risk, take whatever steps are necessary to either fly, correct the unsafe conditions within your control, or cancel the flight. It is just part of the CAP culture.
“It actually feels weird to me now when I fly personally outside of CAP and I don’t have all of these processes,” Metzler illuminates. “I now use my own process when I fly separate from CAP for local flights not ideal for a VFR or IFR flight plan. I am thankful to CAP to have such a great system that I can adapt for my personal flying.”
“I also appreciate the focus on operational risk management and risk management training,” said Lou Volchansky, a volunteer CAP instructor pilot and the FAA’s Systems and Equipment Standards Branch manager. “All members, not just aircrew, are given opportunities to develop proficiency in applying the ORM process so that risk management becomes a part of your decision-making process, whether deliberate, time-critical, or strategic.”
Keeping the world’s largest fleet of single-engine piston aircraft ready to respond requires a deliberately shaped safety culture.
There is always room for improvement. With a new organizational emphasis on professionalism in the pursuit of excellence, improving pilot skills and talents is a core expectation of CAP. CAP Chief of Safety George Vogt explains, “Safety is an outcome, and our emphasis is in giving our pilots an organization and structure, along with the risk management tools and training they need to ensure that they are as safe as possible. We aren’t looking at who is to blame when something goes wrong, but rather we want to take a team approach to see how we can improve.”