|Four One Mike over the LA basin managing risk...
Last week Mom was still dealing with a bit of pneumonia in the lower left lobe of her lung. She was happy as she normally is, and even referred to me accurately as her son (normally she gets this confused and I've been called grandson, nephew, husband, cousin ... everything but her son).
But Mom still had a bit of a cough, and still required oxygen because her O2 uptake without the supplement was in the low 80s.
My brother had stopped by a few days ago to install new safety cords to her hearing aids because the original installation had broken. He reported an otherwise "normal" Mom.
And of course, Four One Mike hasn't been in the air since then. I know she'll need a half quart of oil before I fire up that Continental IO 520 tomorrow; she may need some air in the tires, and the windshield will need a good cleaning. The GPS database needs its 28 day cycle update.
Otherwise I don't expect any surprises from Four One Mike - the pitch servo is still in Kansas for repair but once properly trimmed the plane flies hands off just fine and the pitch servo is only missed when doing an instrument approach (without a pitch servo there is no autopilot coupling to the vertical gradient, so it must be hand flown).
A couple of days ago the airport manager at Oceanside called and left a message that the left rear window was still open (doh!), but that there didn't appear to be anything amiss with the car I use to visit Mom after landing ... phew!
Here it is, well more than 24 hours in advance and I'm already thinking of what needs to be done to accomplish the mission of checking on Mom.
In our world, we would call this a part of risk management.
Risk management entails thinking ahead and making sure that contingencies are in place to deal with the unexpected. Certainly tomorrow things could go wrong. Part of this phase of risk management, however, is planning.
Planning is a primary and critical risk management technique. It is the basis of risk management.
Risk management isn't rocket science. Hell, it's barely science at all - it's mostly common sense. We have thousands of years of existence on this planet and there's not a whole lot of risk that hasn't yet been experienced by human beings.
The lessons we have learned over those thousands of years have been reinforced by experience. We have documented and chronicled the unexpected. We have studied those events. We have devised methods of minimizing such events in the future, and have strategies for dealing with them in case similar events do occur.
Risk management is, by definition, a conservative practice. It has to be because you can't manage the unknown; one doesn't experiment with risk.
Which is why I cringe when I see phrases touting, "Cutting edge risk management techniques."
That phrase is an oxymoron. There is nothing "cutting edge" about risk management. Being "cutting edge" strongly implies operating outside the norm, on the fringes of what is known and established.
Workers' compensation has no place for "cutting edge." We live in a very basic, fundamental world. Work place safety essentially means don't be stupid, and prevent other people from being stupid, or at least minimizing the possibility that someone will be stupid.
Flying epitomizes risk management, and trust me, there's nothing "cutting edge" about making sure planes don't fall out of the sky or hit things that break them.
The lessons have been learned and repeated, and get repeated thousands of times every day: planning, communication, decision making.
Fail any of those three fundamental risk management techniques in aviation and ... you die.
It's a pretty simple concept.
Pilots and airplane owners can make things complicated. We can get tangled up about operational details: manifold pressure readings at certain altitudes, propeller RPM, indicated airspeed versus angle of attack, comm one or comm two, ATIS reports, TCAD settings, frequencies, approach plates, departure procedures, etc., etc.
Lots of details.
But when something bad happens pilots revert to basic, fundamental risk management techniques and the single most basic those is, "fly the airplane."
"Fly the airplane." Simple, concise, easy to remember ... which is what humans need when panic sets in.
We panic a lot in workers' compensation. We talk about medical marijuana, opt out, reform, fee schedules, waiting periods, and other topics that induce industry anxiety.
We get all confused about "flying the airplane" in workers' compensation. We get hung up on the operational details: TTD, PTD, RTW, ACOEM, ODG, MTUS, MPN, QME, etc., etc.
There's lots of "cutting edge" risk management techniques propounded by "experts" who sell products and services to keep the industry "cutting edge."
The reality is that all these cutting edge risk management techniques just increase costs because it takes away from just "flying the airplane," or in the case of workers' compensation, just paying the claim.
I know, I know - it's not that simple. There are rules to abide by, hoops to jump through, things to be audited, checks and balances ... all sorts of details to pay attention to.
I suggest that it IS that simple; that it doesn't have to be that hard. Is there an injury - yes or no? Does that injury require treatment - yes or no?
When a pilot "just flies the airplane" he or she makes binary decisions - yes or no. There's no time to consider whether the FAA might get mad or ATC might have an issue. There's no time to fiddle with gadgets, dials and knobs.
Everything is a yes or a no, broken down to the most simple, basic risk management fundamentals.
Tomorrow, I'll check flight conditions. My pre-planning today suggests that everything should be fine and within the capabilities of Four One Mike and its pilot.
I'm planning to fly Four One Mike. I'll check the weather and decide, yes or no, whether to go. I'll preflight the plane and then make a yes or no "go" decision.
I'm planning on seeing you tomorrow Mom! I'm hoping for a "yes" risk management decision, but hope you're not disappointed if it's a "no."