Ground Clutter

I have spoken for hundreds of aviation groups, ranging from Fairbanks to the Mediterranean coast of Spain. You’d think it would become routine after three decades, but these groups still fascinate me with quality programs and attendees.

Recently I was the luncheon speaker for P.R.O.P. (Pilot’s Review of Proficiency) 2010. P.R.O.P. — for owner operators and pilots of MU-2 turbine aircraft — is put on by Turbine Aircraft Services, Inc., for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America (MHIA), with sponsors Simcom International, Inc., Honeywell, and Authorized MU-2 Service Centers. Interestingly, although the last MU-2 was built in 1986, MHIA supports them to this day. P.R.O.P. was free and well attended.

P.R.O.P. is a safety meeting “designed to enrich pilot decisionmaking and awareness” (and a very good one). Thanks in large part to meetings like this and the FAA’s SFAR (Special Federal Aviation Regulations), the MU-2 safety record has improved significantly in recent years.

Attendees were primarily MU-2 owner/pilots. Many, if not most, were small business owners and, with no exception that I met, were absolutely in love with the MU-2. One of them also owned a Lear, but told me that he preferred to fly the MU-2. Their airplanes were beautifully kept up and looked terrific.

The people — mostly go-getter Type A personalities — took the time off from their busy schedules to attend P.R.O.P. to make themselves better pilots and better operators. Most of them have attended P.R.O.P. in previous years. You’ve got to admire a group like that.

Presenters included highly-qualified people from Mitsubishi, Turbine Aircraft Services, Simcom, and Honeywell. They all covered nitty-gritty subjects including accident analysis, maintenance, radar, WAAS/LASS approaches, engine operations, technical tips, and safety management systems.

The good, the bad, and the ugly of actual MU-2 accidents were studied in depth. Human problems such as attitude and behavior were brought to the forefront. Questions were asked, debate sometimes tended to the argumentative side, minds were changed, and new ideas were adopted.

At the evening reception, most of the talk was about the MU-2 and the pleasures of owning/flying one. There was much discussion of techniques and ideas derived from the program; it was kinda like going to a pep rally with fanatical (and extremely knowledgeable) football fans.

I have never seen a more productive safety program. I was proud to be a small part of it. Luncheon speakers in prior years have included Rod Machado and the late, great writer, Gordon Baxter, so I was in good company. There will be two more P.R.O.P. meetings in May, and I look forward to both.