Safety is your decision

How do you want your aircraft maintained? Good enough or airworthy? Your answer should be airworthy of course.

Fortunately I have found that aircraft mechanics do not tolerate good enough — but we do not get to make that final call that sends the aircraft upward into flight.

We are rarely there for that, but we know that the aircraft has to be 100% or better. We don’t know the weather, the weight of your passengers and cargo, your experience, or your decision-making skills. We only know that, as far as the aircraft is concerned, it all has to work and be structurally safe.

Please remember this the next time your mechanic tells you a repair is going to cost money and that it has to be done to be airworthy. Ask all the questions you want, just do it from the perspective that your mechanic is looking out for you and your family. Your mechanic just wants you to come back safe no matter what circumstance you put yourself and the aircraft into.

I was reminded the other day of the harsh reality of aviation safety. Just south of PAMA national headquarters is a local airport that is well-known among glider enthusiasts. During a soaring competition the week of Memorial Day a glider crashed and a 53-year-old pilot is dead. I am very sorry for the family’s loss.

It was extremely windy that day. Prevailing winds were at 20 mph, gusting to 27 mph. The interesting observation I made was this: During the local news reports, several of the pilots stated that, “we should not have flown that day.”

True or not, a man is dead and they are not — but they flew as well! They are their own last safety check. If that was what they personally thought as pilot in command, then they should not have flown. An unsafe flight for any reason is a risk that can prove deadly.

Maybe it was a bad decision to fly that day, but the decision you make when maintaining your aircraft should not be. Your maintenance provider is looking out for your safety. Let them.


Dale Forton is president of the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA). Find out more about PAMA at



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  1. Eugene B. says

    I’ve had issues with some mechanics that I no longer trust. If I leave a message to call me before going any further with a repair, I don’t expect the rudder and steering system to be taken apart. And when the diagnosis comes back that it needs a part, and it turns out that it just needed an adjustment, it really makes me distrust mechanics. Missing and loose screws noticed afterwards don’t help. It makes me want to build an experimental so my plane won’t be held hostage to people who are learning their trade on my nickel. I’ll take my “good enough” to their “airworthy” any time.

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