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Starting the New Year off with safety

A T-6 Texan II prepares to take flight Jan. 7, 2019, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Each year pilots with the 14th Flying Training Wing gather in the Kaye Auditorium to go over safety information and mishap prevention briefings so they are better prepared to return to pilot training. (U.S. Air Force photo by airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

A T-6 Texan II prepares to take flight Jan. 7, 2019, on Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi. Each year pilots with the 14th Flying Training Wing gather in the Kaye Auditorium to go over safety information and mishap prevention briefings so they are better prepared to return to pilot training. (U.S. Air Force photo by airman 1st Class Keith Holcomb)

COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Time off is necessary for anyone to recharge and come back stronger; however, after returning everyone must refocus to get back on track to eliminate costly mistakes.

Pilots from the 14th Flying Training Wing spent Jan. 2 getting into the right mindset to continue their flying training mission in 2019.

“We typically do our annual safety training after the holiday season, because that’s when we are most vulnerable to mishaps,” said Capt. Harris Hollis, 14th FTW safety officer and one of the many individuals who prepared and organized the briefings this year.

A safety day gives pilots the chance to refocus their priorities as aviators and instructors. It lowers the risk of incidents by getting them back into a healthy mindset to train the next generation of military aviators effectively and efficiently.

“One of the things we incorporate in our safety day is mishap prevention,” Hollis said. “We make sure we focus on previous mishaps that have occurred … it gives us a chance to look at past events, see some data and materials that will allow us to learn from mistakes and factors that caused these mishaps … the goal is to mitigate lapses in judgment while planning and, ultimately, in the cockpit.”

Hollis related the safety training of pilots to riding a bike. Once you get on a bike and learn to ride, it becomes easier and easier, but if you stop riding for a while your familiarity with the bike deteriorates. In order to stay familiar and safe, 14th FTW pilots have to continuously practice to stay sharp.

“It’s important to get instructors into the right frame of mind after a break like the holidays and it’s important to teach students good habit patterns that will be important to have no matter what airframe they go on to fly,” said Capt. Taylor Coffey, 37th Flying Training Squadron executive officer. “You’re moving so fast in an aircraft that the moment you become complacent, mistakes can be costly.”

Safety doesn’t stop at the annual training and certainly doesn’t only consist of mishap prevention data alongside a few words of wisdom. Students are taught safety techniques throughout all of UPT because flying safety is essential to creating a topnotch aviator. Hollis spoke about how safety is implemented in training and beyond.

“As students move into the flying realm and the operational side, they’ll hit safety every day,” Hollis said. “The goal is to be as safe as possible and still execute the mission. The reality is we can’t be 100 percent safe because then we wouldn’t be flying … that’s where operational risk management skills come into play … students are taught to always think safety, they have to always be thinking of scenarios to safely recover their aircraft.”

From their first day and throughout their career, our pilots will complete extraordinary missions across the globe while employing the safety management and aviation skills learned from the 14th FTW.