Helmets and Risk Management for trikes

Published by: Paul Hamilton on 11th May 2018 | View all blogs by Paul Hamilton

From my  camera test around the pattern someone asked about flying without the helmet and here is my response:




Lets look at this from the 30,000 foot level....... Expand our viewpoint/horizons.........It is pretty funny that other pilots at the airport accuse me and all trike pilots "unsafe" for flying a trike or for that matter a light sport airplane. Others outside the airport gates accuse the all recreational pilots for being unsafe for flying in the first place. We have enough accidents at the airport that are big media events so I can understand the non pilots viewpoint. Why would people fly around when there are so many unnecessary accidents? Why - Passion for flying.............. Living life to the fullest.

This wearing a helmet is a good question/topic about life and flying in general, especially since many have learned to always wear one, that is great. I learned the same way..........

I teach risk management and hopefully as most of us are thought, "proactively identify safety related hazards and mitigate the associated risks". Want to minimize risks, - simply DO NOT FLY. Simple. You have determined the risk for your self and this may very well be your best decision. Similarly, if you are thinking about riding a motorcycle and want to minimize risk, DO NO GO RIDING, sell your motorcycle. I say this because within the last year I bought a motorcycle and LOVE to ride it. My wife Loretta LOVES to ride with me. We both accept the risk but we do it anyway. Yes we both wear fluorescent green helmets and have the full visibility helmets and jackets so we can be seen better. I feel motorcycle riding it is more risky than driving a car AND flying but I do it any way because I LOVE it.

LIFE IS A RISK, it is how you weight the risk verses the rewards. Almost no one wears a helmet in an airplane or a car. I wonder why that is? It would be much safer if we/they all did. Perhaps someday everyone will be wearing a helmet in a car and/or an airplane.........

Typically I wear a helmet flying a trike 95% of the time. The noise canceling of the headphones and the mike noise is better and overall less fatiguing in the open air......... I do not wear a helmet while flying the water trike. The water trike "people/CFI's" advise this. Hopefully everyone will exercise the wisdom to asses the risks in their life.

Big hint for all, DO NOT DO EVERYTHING OR BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU SEE ON THE INTERNET...Use common sense. Determine your own risk management......

So why did I not wear a helmet in this video, BECAUSE I DID NOT WANT TO. I wanted the feeling of the wind in my hair and I cherish that feeling/freedom.



  • Paul Hamilton
    by Paul Hamilton 3 months ago
    Yes I should add, Fast trikes verses slow trikes, calm air verses bumpy, two stroke verses four stroke, transition training verses not, etc......
  • Tom Currier
    by Tom Currier 3 months ago
    Same here, Paul. When I know my landings are going to be on the water you'll find me sans helmet; usually just sporting my headset and perhaps my leather flying helmet but that just makes me look cool :) (or so I think anyway).

    I sold my bike years ago. I had too many close calls with texting drivers and didn't want to take that risk anymore. I picked up a small convertible car and haven't looked back since. The driving sensation is nearly the same but a little more comfortable for these old bones
  • Jim Goldman
    by Jim Goldman 2 months ago
    Paul: good post.

    Risk is something we should identify and try to mitigate as best we can. Paul, you're right: if you want to minimize risk (not mitigate it), don't get out of bed. You take a risk crossing the street, riding in a car, walking into public spaces, just living. But if you don't get out of bed, you risk dying of boredom. That's an exaggeration, but perhaps if you avoid most anything interesting, therefore risky, you face a different kind of risk.

    I have been riding motorcycles for decades longer than I have been an aircraft pilot. The motorcycle is way more dangerous given the enormous vehicles driven by inattentive drivers. How to mitigate the risk? The obvious choices: Use protective and high visibility clothing. Wear a helmet. Ride on less populated roads at less busy times of the day. Watch everyone around you like they're trying to kill you.

    By comparison, one really nice thing about aviation is that other pilots aren't trying to kill you. Yes, the risks are there, and the stats show it, but we manage those risks through training, personal limitations, and so on. I worry about the risks every time I get in the airplane or the trike, but I think about the conditions vs. my abilities (which include training/proficiency/recency) and try to fly only when the risks are within my comfort zone. I'm not ready to give up bikes or trikes yet.
  • Arthur Thompson
    by Arthur Thompson 2 months ago
    "He who takes no risk isn't trying hard enough." -- Sorry, I don't remember who the author is. IMHO if you want big rewards your going to have to take big risks. As y'all are saying, do your homework and mitigate the risk, accept the consequences and live life to its fullest.
  • Bryan Tuffnell
    by Bryan Tuffnell 2 months ago
    I have mixed feelings about the helmet issue. There is the water case, which is reasonably unequivocal. But I think that's not what the objection is.

    One of my indulgences is a form of aviation that is far, far more dangerous than flying trikes. In that group we accept a very high level of risk because the rewards are so high. I think that group has the most highly skilled, highly trained, current, practiced, aware, risk savvy members I can think of. We assess, review and consider everything. We lose members of that group in fatal accidents at an alarming rate, and yet I consider that as a group we take our obligations to safety and accept an apprenticeship to slow learning far more seriously than us trike pilots do. Reducing risk to the barest minimum is a huge aspect of that sport, and the same cannot be said for us, collectively as a group, who fly trikes.

    For me, it boils down to this: risk is not the same as recklessness. Being prepared to accept a high consequence for a small mistake doesn't make you reckless. But deliberately exposing yourself to an unnecessary degree of risk when participating in an activity is pretty much how I would define recklessness.

    I would never tell someone that I disapprove of them not wearing a helmet; that's their choice. But for me - no, the rewards of being bare-headed just don't make sense. I cringe a little when I see someone flying a trike without a helmet, because it goes against my thinking of risk mitigation. Others will, and are entitled to, choose to take on an unnecessary exposure to the consequence of a mistake, for whatever reason. None of us wears a helmet when driving a car, and obviously the outcome of accident is likely to be worse because of that. Personal freedom and all that.

    So personal choice... so long as the non-wearers of helmets are happy to acknowledge that they are adding potential consequences to any error they make, and however low the likelihood of an accident may be they are not immune to goofing up, and that should the worst happen, others could be affected by their decision.

    For me, I'll accept the consequences of a risky ACTIVITY, but I will not add extra CONSEQUENCE to risk. I'll always wear a helmet.
  • Doug Boyle
    by Doug Boyle 2 months ago
    Ditto; well said Bryan!
  • Joe Hockman
    by Joe Hockman 2 months ago
    I agree Doug, very well said Bryan. I think I can recall maybe once or twice headed up around the pattern, without a helmet, just to check out a minor modification I made to my UL trike or wing, but you can count me in as a helmet wearer 99.99% of the time. I also have strong feelings about wearing a helmet on a motorcycle. Quite a few states do have "helmet optional" laws but I really do not like the potential additional consequence of motorcycle riding without a helmet. I would not normally say this in public but I am an example of a motorcyclist that would not be here today if I was not wearing a helmet in a couple rather serious accidents I experienced as a teenager. Bottom line for me is, if you really do value what is sitting on top of your shoulders, use the appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).
  • Doug Boyle
    by Doug Boyle 2 months ago
    It reminds me of a father on Xmas Day demonstrating to his son the new skateboard he received as a gift. While demonstrating in front of his son he fell off and contacted the curb with his head. DOA!
  • roger larson
    by roger larson 15 days ago
    The only thing worse than dying young is living long enough to be back in diapers.....The definition of Health is: The slowest form of dying......or: Some people exist but never live.....or you can stay home and do nothing but even that will kill you in the end....or as a BASE JUMPER has said: It's good to be in the safe zone flying trikes. :)
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