Pilot Attitudes And Safety...

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Bush Pilot Syndrome Tackled...

Alaska has always led the nation in per capita aviation crashes and fatalities and, for the most part, with good reasons like awful weather, poor nav aids and primitive airports. Some technical advances (and some pretty expensive ones at that) like the Capstone project and the installation of lighting and weather sensing equipment at its many far-flung airports have done their share to make Alaska, technically speaking, at least, a safer place to fly. But those working on reducing the state's still-obnoxious GA accident rate say there's a problem that the best GPS or brightest runway light can't overcome. They call it Bush Pilot Syndrome. It seems there are those who feel that more than a few who fly for a living in Alaska have seen too many movies. Oozing machismo and bravado, they take chances (not only with their own lives but those of others) that would appall many other pilots. "There's a mystique about Alaska and some people feel they have to live up to certain legends," Jerry Dennis, executive director of the Medallion Foundation, told Associated Press. The foundation runs safety programs for pilots, including one recently opened to private pilots. To qualify for one of Medallion's safety shields, air carriers must undergo rigorous safety and risk assessment courses and show competency in five key areas of flight safety. So far, only two of Alaska's 40 air carriers enlisted in the program have earned the shields. In addition to Medallion's programs, there's a government-subsidized effort that provides free simulator time to pilots. The emphasis on professionalism may be working as accident rates seem to be dropping. The FAA and Medallion folks are now trying to reach the many recreational pilots (one in 59 Alaskans is a pilot) with the same message. However, Dennis said the main problem with private pilots is currency as many only fly at certain times of the year for hunting and fishing trips