General aviation safety group provides resources to aviator enthusiasts

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jessica Roles
  • 189th Airlift Wing

     At the 189th Airlift Wing, the Safety Office has many responsibilities. One drill status Guardsman, Staff Sgt. Heather Metzler, a 189 AW safety technician, also provides safety guidance in her civilian capacity and an aviation safety inspector. As an aviation safety inspector, she initiated the General Aviation Assembly Cluster, a group created to provide an avenue for general aviation pilots to network and learn safety techniques when flying and share best practices with one another.

     “We actually have a lot of flyers in our wing,” Metzler said. “This group is for our pilots, civilian hobby flyers and anyone who generally has access to an airplane. We talk about general aviation requirements and look for ways to help our aviators get required certifications to be safe when they fly. It really helps us nurture and encourage others to reach their goals.”

     Currently, the cluster consists of 25 members of the wing. Officers and enlisted are all encouraged to join. Unmanned aircraft pilots are also welcome to join as similar requirements must be met to conduct unmanned flying activities. The group is also open to other members of the Arkansas National Guard and anyone who has access to Little Rock AFB.

     One benefit of the cluster includes discussions for meeting the requirements for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Federal Aviation Regulations. The flight review is completed every 24 calendar months and requires one hour of ground training and one hour of flight training. Through the Wings Program, a flyer is able to complete this requirement sooner, becoming more proficient and confident in their civilian flying abilities as the pilot in command.

     “The Wings Program essentially helps pilots hold themselves to a higher standard,” Metzler said. “If a pilot hasn’t flown with an instructor in let’s say 23 months and asks you if you want to fly, would you feel comfortable with that? There is a regulations that says to take passengers in your aircraft, you have to have completed three take-offs and landings in the last 90 days. Would you get in the plane? The regs say you can do that, but just because you can, should you? That’s what we’re trying to help people understand.”

     “The worst thing that can happen is an accident and somebody dies. It would be devastating to know that we didn’t do everything we could to prevent that from happening,” Metzler said. “We have all these things in the military that require a safety net, but in the civilian capacity, there’s none of that.”

     The group aims to brings safety awareness to new as well as seasoned pilots to improve the flying culture, making it more safety oriented, and engrain the importance of taking the proper safety measures in the air. Metzler feels that realizing the “normal” culture is not safe, is the first step to bringing pilots up in a safe flying culture.

     If you are interested in attending the cluster, the group meets every Sunday of drill at 10 a.m. For location information, call 501-987-7959.