Recently the FAA issued a "Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin" (SAIB) notifying owners, operators, and maintainers of an incident in which the crew of an Irish airliner experienced difficulty seeing through the lens of their combination oxygen mask & smoke goggles. Ultimately, the flight landed safely; however, the SAIB made me think about how often we inspect (or in this case) fail to inspect our emergency equipment.
Anyone who has ever donned a pressure-demand O2 mask during their preflight only to receive a blast of oxygen-propelled dust knows exactly what I'm talking about.
All too often, we take this kind of equipment for granted, assuming that it will be there when we are faced with a true emergency. Unfortunately, that kind of thinking can be a recipe for disaster!
As aviators (and maintainers) we owe it to ourselves, our passengers, and our customers to ensure that the equipment which we depend upon to assist us in abnormal or emergency situations is ready to do its job before it is pressed into service.
Discovering faults in emergency equipment in the heat of a real emergency only serves to compound the severity of the situation and adds additional tasks to an already stressful workload. This is especially true for pilots operating high performance aircraft in a single pilot scenario.
When was the last time you really preflighted your emergency equipment? Do you actually don your oxygen masks and verify operation and flow prior to flight? How about your ELT or avionics standby power sources? If you have dual or standby vacuum systems, do you regularly test them independently?
Based upon the number of aircraft which come into Bison Aviation, LLC with empty supplemental oxygen tanks, non-functional ELTs, and standby batteries which won't pass the ground check, it would seem that a lot of us could stand to spend a little more time checking these systems.
When I get to the airport today, I think I'll take a few minutes to preflight some of my own emergency equipment, even though I most likely won't have time to go flying. I encourage all of you to do the same - it won't take much time, and it quite possibly could save your life!
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