Best Practices

FOA Members Best Practices

Saltspring Air Float Plane

Our mission is to enhance safety through co-operative input from all floatplane operators. Our membership would like to establish and enhance safety, by creating and practicing a consistent culture of safety-throughout the industry.

By sharing our Best Practices and by inviting input from our peers and the public, we hope to address any and all practices that would advance safety.

We invite anyone with ideas or safety practices to contribute to this page in the hope that we can disseminate and share these ideas among the readership.

Below is a list of Best Practices or protocols recommended by our members. By definition, “Best Practices” are guidelines that FOA is encouraging all members to adopt. All Members are encouraged to contact other members to get more details regarding these protocols and therefore, further the discussion and the sharing of-safety related information. 


  • Personal Floatation Devices

Each operator should establish a policy with personal floatation devices. If an operator is going to allow the use of *PFDs,  then  it is highly recommended that the wearer of a PFD take an egress course. Using PFDs in conjunction with the proper egress training is the only way to ensure that a person wearing a PFD can safely extricate themselves from a compromised aircraft.


  • Daylight operations only

No take-offs or landings prior to sunrise or planned landings after sunset. The intent of this variation from *CARs is to ensure better lighting for water operations.


  •    Weather/Visibility limits

          Not fly below 300 feet or in visibility less than 2 miles, unless authorized to do so in the operator’s *OC.

This is pursuant to paragraph 703.28 (1) and 723.28 of the Canadian Aviation Regulations.


  • Wind limits  

Take-offs or landings in areas where the wind on the water is in excess of 30 kts.


  • Passenger and payload weights

Where scales are available, all passengers, their baggage and all cargo should be weighed. Where scales are not available, the operator should use a method of determining weights as prescribed in the operator’s approved Weight And Balance procedures.


  •  Line checks by Chief pilot or Ops manager

The operator should conduct line checks of their pilots The outcome of unsatisfactory line checks should be further training and/or curative action.Any non-conformance should be corrected.

A line check of each pilot should be conducted at the minimum; annually on each type of aircraft, to ensure that pilots are adhering to company procedures and regulations. Records of line checks should be kept indefinitely in the pilot’s files.


  • Satellite tracking

A reliable tracking system/program with 2 minute broadcast cycles should be practiced. A satellite tracking system allows an operator to not only know the whereabouts of an aircraft but also provides a picture of the routing and altitudes at which the pilot is flying. This can provide the operator with oversight of the pilot’s progress and decision making processes. The tracking system has also been proven to be very effective at locating aircraft if an emergency does occur.


  • Aircraft communications

The operator’s pilots should have a means of constant contact with their base of operation. Frequent position/status call-ins every 30 minutes and a pre-landing call-in from the pilot is recommended. At times, pilots operate in areas that have limited or no radio contact with their company dispatch/flight-follower. An augmentation to limited radio contact therefore, should be satellite tracking-to ensure a constant means of observing a flight-at any given time.


  •   DHC2 door latches

Aircraft not equipped with door latch/double handles should have push-out windows.


  • DHC-2  push-out windows

Aircraft not equipped with push-out windows should have door latch/double handles.


  • Underwater egress training

All crew members should have egress training. If a crew member is new to an operation and has not had training within the last 3 years, then it is recommended that the crew member be trained within the first 6 months of employment. Re-currency training should follow at least every 3 years from the initial training period. An operator should establish a policy regarding egress training and the use of PFDs.


  • CG wheel calculators

Determining an aircraft’s Center of Gravity with a calculator is recommended.


  •   Standard operating procedures

Provide a SOP for each aircraft type and train pilots to these procedures-check periodically for consistency.


  • Mountain flying training

Mountain flying training should be a part of the pilot’s training program where operators provide flights in mountainous areas.


  • Extensive pre-takeoff briefings

Operators/pilots should brief all passengers before every flight.The list of briefing topics are to be clearly listed in the operator’s Operations Manual.


  • 406 MHz ELT’s

406 ELTs should be used.


  • Record of passenger’s names and contact numbers

Prior to any flight, the clients’ names and contact numbers should be left behind with the operator’s dispatcher, flight-follower or responsible person.


  • Emergency Response Manual

         The operator should conduct 1 emergency drill per year, using their Emergency Response Manual.


We thank the membership for these insightful contributions. We welcome and encourage all and any ideas and practices that would improve upon safety. FOA.


Complacency- A topic for Best Practices

by Jim Hartwell

There’s an old saying that states-familiarity breeds contempt. We would be amiss by not adding to this old sage that familiarity also breeds complacency. To us, complacency is an issue we all should be concerned about, as it affects the very safety of everyone in aviation. We have added this section to the page therefore, for the purpose of taking in and sharing any and all ideas and techniques that would address this issue. By posting on this page, we hope to allow everyone with concerns and/or ideas to anonymously contribute to this dialogue, to help diminish and/or better understand complacency. As our mission is based on Best Practices, we are seeking techniques and methods that will create a culture within the industry that allows for a safety first foundation. We ask for your contributions and the sharing of ideas. FOA

Identifying and explaining Complacency

   Of the key elements with complacency, environment and the interaction between people in the workplace appear to have the greatest affect with causing or preventing mishaps. Through a typical day at one’s place of work for example, elements of complacency can create an environment that can and does create mishaps, as does the interaction between one’s fellow workers, parlous actions that can affect the safety aspects of one’s operation/airline. When one is operating their aircraft for example, whether the situation is tense and stressful or uneventful and relaxing, the pilot can be tripped up or lulled into a state of complacency. When a pilot is complacent resulting from too much routine, indifference or fatigue for example, then a dangerous environment can be the consequence. As for the interaction between people, the consensus appears to be that a state of complacency can easily take hold of an entire organization when the people working in, on or with aircraft have migrated to a disposition (caused by several factors) that encourages heedless and neglectful practices. Examples of these practices are carelessness, laxness, alacrity and indifference. All route causes that can and do lead to complacency. In the following summation, we will examine several factors that lead to this subject and hope with future suggestions and recommendations show how an operator can address and correct many of these elements that allow one to fall into a complacent frame of mind.

Stress and tense situations for example, can lend to missed thoughts and/or lost steps that trace back to one not instilling in their regimen the necessary practices or preparation for (in this case aviation) a demanding flight, where as a relaxing flight on the other hand, can and does very often lull one into a state of complacency. It has been recognized, that the stressors of a flight may very well put a pilot in a more heightened state of awareness, yet also lead to distractions and with a lack of preparedness can and does lead one to catastrophic circumstances. Mundane and routine flights though well the opposite of flights in inclement weather for example, have been known to lead or lull one into a malaise of complacency and leave one to miss and ignore key and critical safety procedures and steps. It might be added that a sequential series of actions with a stressful flight at the beginning or during a flight followed by an improvement in weather on the final portion of a flight for example, can take a pilot from a state of stress and a related complacent disposition due to distractions into a complacent situation resulting from the sense of relief and therefore, the consequent letting of one’s guard-down. This could for example, have the pilot forget to check a pre-landing checklist resulting in a gear-down (for water landing) approach to final/landing. The result? Disastrous. The cause? Complacency.  This is a workload element, whether that workload is too much to handle or whether it is little or relatively non-existent. The results are similar and originate from the same route origin-complacency.

Another element that can lead to complacency is fatigue. Fatigue causes us to miscue functions and steps that when operating aircraft can have an effect that though preventable, is seldom reversible. Fatigue can stem from several factors such as lack of sleep (long duty hours for the pilot), problems with one’s home life, finances, distractions etc. All of these or a combination there of, can cause fatigue and a worrisome predisposition for the pilot. The signs of fatigue manifest themselves in many ways, but the key signs are, a lack of attention to the task at hand, indifference toward the work required to fulfil one’s tasks, or acknowledging the spoken word-but, instead, hearing what they believe is being said. Other signs are those of one being easily dissuaded, disrupted or distracted from what one is doing. Critical signs of a pilot suffering from a fatigue induced and therefore complacent mind-set.


If you have ever had a conversation with someone that goes like this then you’ll understand this element of complacency exactly. “Oh, didn’t you check that? I thought you checked that”. A co-dependency on your co-workers or even you equipment is a path that can lead to an unsafe flight.  A tendency to become co-dependent on someone else who may have more experience with the aircraft being flown or the area being flown in, can easily allow for a pilot to rely too much on someone else. To not question and actively partake in the management of the flight and one’s responsibilities, has been known for example, to have a pilot fall back into a complacent role, even though this crew member who though very well may be properly qualified to partake in the flight duties, lulls into a complacent standing while flying with a more experienced captain. Co-workers from the ground up, have a role to play in the safe operation of a flight, yet the dynamics of a flight from the loading of freight to the active involvement of the dispatcher brings into play all sorts of interaction with one’s peers and questions one’s role and resulting actions to be taken.  Interdependence, making assumptions and not questioning authority for example, can lead to a complacent environment that can consequently lead to failure.

Managing, overseeing and detecting complacency begins with the individual but the responsibility with taking a hold of and instituting better Practices in aviation is and should be shared with the managerial structure/hierarchy of any operation. Management that lets things go-as it were, unchecked are basically condoning complacent acts. Management has a responsibility when addressing complacency to actively involve themselves with seeing to it that those taking the easiest way of doing things or those that break the rules need to be brought into line, ensuring that safety is kept at the forefront.


How to address complacency and instill practices that curtail complacent acts.

To address this portion of the discussion we need to single out each of the recognizable complacent elements by 1. Identifying the element/action 2. Explaining the dynamics of this complacent issue. 3. Suggesting and recommending what actions to take to diminish or eliminate the complacent act.

Let’s start with Fatigue. The duty hours for pilots are found to contribute greatly to a pilot’s performance level. Fatigue as we all know can originate from someone performing their tasks on long summer days for example and not be allowed the time to rest and compensate for these long days with sufficient rest. Caused by such things as a disruptive family life, financial problems or a young child crying all night in the pilot’s home. Add to that the stressors of high frequency rotations/legs, vibration, tasking, time restraints and noise and you have a tired/fatigued and stressed pilot.  Accumulated over time, fatigue cannot be addressed and corrected by a pilot taking a few more hours of sleep in a single night. As with fatigue which builds over time, rest takes time to retrieve and recover and therefore, must be something accumulated to keep the fatigue factor- in check. In order to keep fatigue in check and therefore, allow the pilot the necessary balance to perform their duties safely, as with most people, individuals/pilots must know what their limits and abilities are as they play into this balance of fatigue and being well rested. Some individuals are able to function with less rest/sleep than are others and therefore, the individual/pilot, the management hierarchy and the team as a whole need to be cognizant of this factor when observing and interacting with the pilot and each other. This can best be instilled in any operation through education (with all employees) such as human factors training- for example.


As mentioned previously, an organization has a key role to play with complacency. Workers, dock-hands, dispatchers, pilots and management alike, all have a part to play in this element of any operation. By instilling a pro-active and involved mind-set with an airlines’ employees an operator is ensuring that complacency is kept in check and taken out of the day to day operation of an airline. By not instituting a policy of accountability and by not putting in place a set of standards and rules and by accepting mediocre performance or allowing for the cutting of corners for example, an operator and/or its team are condoning complacency and leading to potential mishaps.


It must be added, that with so many elements involved with complacency, one can easily miss the co-dependency element as a prime example of how one can fall back into an indifferent or complacent stance while on duty and/or flying. To have a new trainee in flight with a more experienced pilot for example, the roles of diligence and dependence can and does fall on the more experienced pilot’s shoulders. This is not an assumption so much as a fact, as human nature as it is, proves time and time again that we tend to not question those amongst us with the longer and/or greater lineage of experience. To question authority for example in an environment such as flying, one would best be taught to question decisions and participate in cock-pit management for example instead of taking a more submissive role. Management again, should instill in their employees and operations a culture of participants as opposed to followers and rule- breakers.


There’s a funny old saying that’s been going around in the aviation community for years that states; In the future, there will be three things in a cock-pit.  A pilot, a computer and a Dog. The computer will be there to fly the plane while the dog is there to bite the pilot if he touches anything. Well, that old joke is getting closer to the truth, in that technology though racing ahead and providing the pilot with great support in navigation, system controls, weather sourcing etc. can lead the pilot to be too dependent on technology and complacent in ensuring that the very systems and technology that are enhancing the flight deck not become something that leads the pilot into someone who follows the lead and relies solely on something that can put him/her in a compromised scenario. A GPS Navigation system for example, is a marvellous tool, but if the power goes out, a complacent individual could be ill prepared for the consequences. Reliance is a trustful dependence on someone or something yet for someone flying an aircraft, taking ownership of these contemporary advances in technology and therefore, not falling into the role of the reliant and consequently complacent- is something required to ensure safety. To accept technology as something that is infallible and without flaws is to recognize a human element that has and does continue to put one in a compromised position. Dependency and falling back on technology can lend one to put themselves into a very dangerous scenario.


Cockpit management is another element that invites complacency. With routine and repetitive actions a pilot can become an indifferent and apathetic individual leading to a predilection that allows him or her to become complacent. Cutting corners on check-lists or taking chances with techniques and practices that save time for example can allay one’s imperative duties to ensure a safe and uneventful flight. We hope to address these key elements of complacency on the flight deck by discussing in future editions in more detail, how we can identify, address and through suggested techniques correct many of the key issues that cause complacency in flight.


Reference source for this article was granted with permission from the copy write holder- Grey Owl Aviation Consultants Inc. 204-848-7353


  • Here are some interesting signs of Complacency as contributed by Larry Langford of Vancouver Island Air. Larry is on our Complacency committee as well as a key contributor in other safety initiatives. Larry is working tirelessly toward improving upon camera installs in key locations, to assist with real time weather visuals- to greatly enhance a safer flying environment. Thanks Larry!


When you use the phrase “that’s good enough” often, then that is not good

When a take-off and landing is a departure and an arrival instead of the best you can do every time

  • When your mind wanders in flight and the aircraft wanders off courseWhen 200ft. either side of your intended altitude is “good enough”When passenger comfort is no longer importantWhen a dirty windshield no longer bothers youWhen you know it all and there is nothing left to learnWhen you stop looking for ways to improveWhen the work is “just a job”When your personal appearance is not important anymoreWhen the aircraft daily inspection keeps getting shorter