Aviate - Navigate - Communicate


From the earliest days of flight training, pilots are taught an important set of priorities that should follow them through their entire flying career: Aviate, Navigate and Communicate. Those 3 simple words can mean the difference between life and death.

The top priority - at all times - is to Aviate, which means to keep control of your aircraft. Fly the airplane by using all available flight controls and flight instruments to direct the airplane’s attitude, airspeed and altitude. The instruments directly in front of the pilot provide important information on how well he/she is doing with respect to basic aircraft control. Whatever the failure might be, always make sure you keep on flying the aircraft. Your first priority should never be to analyze the situation, to get an answer on why the aircraft is doing what it is doing… It should be to stay in control!

If you get distracted by less essential tasks, you might get fixated – and that might lead to disastrous consequences. A famous example of failure to follow the established aviation priorities is the crash of Eastern Airlines Flight 401. In December 1972, the crew of a Lockheed L-1011 TriStar became focused on the malfunction of a landing gear position indicator light for the nose gear. The plane subsequently descended into the Everglades northwest of Miami, killing 101 of the 176 people on board.

Despite all the advantages the crew in this situation had (there were 4 professional aviators in the cockpit), the outcome was still disastrous because the entire crew became engrossed in the mechanical issue and no one was left to keep the airplane in the air. While there were other contributing factors in this accident, the most critical was failure to aviate.

The second priority is to Navigate. Figure out where you are and where you should be going. This one is usually easier during the take-off/initial climb or approach/go-around phases of flight, because you (should) have thoroughly briefed about the options available, the obvious and hidden dangers in the surrounding environment and the back-up plan. As said, it should be easier, but it might also be more dangerous due to the presence of terrain, obstacles and denser traffic situations.

A holding pattern close to the airfield, preferably somewhere on long final of the most suitable runway, is always the best option if you have time available to assess the situation. If a problem arises at higher altitudes, terrain and traffic are usually less of a factor, but then other factors (like the lack of oxygen and pressure) come into mind…

To round out the top priorities, don’t forget to Communicate. Advise ATC about what’s happening, keep them up-to-date about your intentions and ask for instructions. Don’t forget to declare a Pan-Pan or even Mayday situation when deemed necessary. You will probably never have to declare one in your whole flying career, but when the need is there… don’t be scared to do so. Also, in a multi-crew environment, don’t forget to keep your colleague in the loop!

Some good examples are:

  • Engine failure during take-off: first keep control of the aircraft by applying sufficient rudder input, adjust the nose attitude and add thrust when available to be able to climb above 400ft AGL as soon as possible; decide on where to go, follow the EFP (Engine Failure Procedure) where available to be able to climb above the MSA (Minimum Safe/Sector Altitude) and analyze the situation – perform Memory Items when applicable; advise ATC about what has happened, declare an emergency and tell them where you want to go…

  • Cabin decompression at high altitude:  first protect yourself, keep all automation on and try to restore cabin pressure/limit cabin altitude; if the cabin is out of control, descend expeditiously to the lowest safe altitude/level, avoiding all terrain and traffic below; advise ATC about the situation, request a local QNH and where you are heading…

After being online for over half a year, we decided it was time to re-organize everything according this fundamental aviation rule… In the section Aviate, you can find all crew necessities to fly the airplane comfortably and perform all required duties/procedures like the pre- and post-flight external inspection - kneeboards, logbooks, torches, fuel samplers, watches & sunglasses, clothing, maintenance products and much more. In Navigate, you can find all charts, plotters, navigation computers & organizers and the option Communicate contains headsets (with accessories) and transceivers.

We added a 4th principle, Educate, as we believe that you can never “know it all” or have experienced it all. You will never be too old or too experienced to learn. The moment you think you are, the time might have come to take a step back (and become an instructor ;-p). This section contains books, CBT and instructors items (like IFR overcasters).

We also added the option Crew Corner, where you will find more information about us in the section ‘Who we are’, a ‘Calendar’ which will mention all aviation related events in Belgium and the neighboring countries and much more… Trade Account will specify the details for shops who are interested in working together with us. These options will be updated soon.

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