Famous last words… or thoughts

It wouldn’t take three guesses to come up with the one word most often heard on cockpit voice recorders before a crash. In private piston airplanes we don’t have recorders but that word likely wins hands down when a pilot realizes he has lost the battle. More important than that last word is the thought process that led to it. Some famous last thoughts have stood out over the years.

Seeing and flying: how good is good enough?

Despite the requirement for a medical, we have been self-certifying all along once leaving the AME’s office. Do I feel well enough to fly? You bet. Have at it. To me, vision was always the toughest question. How you feel is obvious, vision is not, and the slow deterioration in what you see as you age is as insidious as it is certain.

What’s right with Cirrus pilots?

In 2012 I posted an article about what might be wrong with Cirrus pilots. That attracted a lot of attention and is third on the list of most-read AIR FACTS posts. A lot has changed since 2012, the Cirrus safety record has improved dramatically, and what has happened seems directly related to the great debate about flying through computers v. basic flying.

What’s wrong with Cessna 172 pilots?

The 172 is the most built airplane in history at 43,000 copies. It is probably still safe to say there are more 172s flying in the U. S. than anything else and though production rates today are relatively low, that will remain true for a long time to come. That makes it a true benchmark airplane in a lot of ways, including that good safety record.

Airframe failure: not just V-tails

A recent accident involving a vacuum failure in a V35B Bonanza and subsequent loss of control and airframe failure made me recall that this was a really substantial problem in the 1980s and early 90s. It also made me recall one of the better private flying war stories – from a pilot who survived an airframe failure.

A Memorial Day salute – please join in

I usually write about private aviation but this starts out with an accident involving a military airplane – a long time ago… On November 22, 1952 a USAF C-124 crashed into Colony Glacier on Mount Garrett, 40 miles east of Anchorage, Alaska, where the airplane was supposed to land. The weather was awful and a distress call was received by a Northwest Orient passenger flight.

Takeoff: the riskiest three minutes

There has been a rash of takeoff accidents featured in the news. That cabin-class Cessna hitting the trees in Alabama was dramatic, as was the footage of the Beech Duchess in a yard in Florida. There have been a lot others and when I read of these I think about how unforgiving airplanes can be if you fly away without the old ducks all in a row.

Airplane certification: be careful what you wish for…

What most pilots don’t realize is that certifying that exciting new design is but a small part of the picture. There’s financing, engineering, production and sales and, in the end, profit. If the latter isn’t possible all the rest can be for naught. This is why I, for one, take the proposed rewrite of Part 23 certification standards not with a grain, but with a round blue cardboard container of salt.

What it takes to be one sharp pilot, part three: coordination

Operating a private airplane has come to require more and more coordination as time has passed. In the good old days, coordination was thought of mainly in relation to the use of the elevator, ailerons, rudder and power. Now it has become a matter of getting all your stuff together before a flight and keeping it together until the airplane is secured after the flight. Multitasking might be a better word for that.

The changing myths of aviation

In this wide-ranging article, Dick Collins explores 9 myths about flying – some of which the FAA wants to bust, some of which the FAA perpetuates. Is GA safe? Not safe enough. Is learning to fly hard? No, but it’s not easy either. Read the complete article for a thought-provoking look at our shared wisdom.

Airplanes vs. blizzards: a few war stories

As the blizzard of 2016 was raging on January 23rd I looked at the video of stranded motorists, stuck cars, cars in ditches, and traffic snarls and wondered what in the world possessed those people to make them try to go somewhere. Then I scratched my head and remembered what possessed me when I used to challenge snowstorms in little airplanes. I was big on running the traps as scheduled and a blizzard was no excuse for not being there.

Killer autopilots? It is all in the eye of the beholder

It is my opinion that the debate over basic airmanship v. high-tech has become confused. Advances in information technology have done wonders for all forms of aviation and should be embraced by all. I think the jury is still out on some forms of automation though autopilots have gotten a lot better. They can still be deadly in the hands of a pilot who doesn’t fully understand the system.

If you lose control, it’ll ruin your whole day

Loss of control has been the number one cause of fatal private aviation accidents since the beginning of flying time. The phenomenon is actually one of the things that prompted my father to start Air Facts in 1938 and we have been talking about it here since that beginning. Rather than rehash all the information that has been cranked out by the government and the associations, let’s just have a discussion of the problem and how to avoid it.

Ten-hut: military flying excitement

In the latest installment in Richard Collins’s fascinating Logbooks series, he takes us back to some of his most memorable military flying adventures. All those flights, from the T-33 to landings on an aircraft carrier, lead Collins to one conclusion: “Tell me I didn’t have the best job in the world.”

Crashes: then and now

In a recent post I bemoaned the fact that the fatal accident rate for private flying had gone up to 1.40 per 100,000 hours after remaining level in the 1.20 range for almost 20 years. Guess what it was when Air Facts started in 1938? Would you believe 16.6, or, a fatal accident about every 6,000 hours.

Safety crisis – what’s going on?

The airlines have been able to parlay advances in technology and training to their near-perfect safety record. We have available every bit (and possibly more) in the way of high-tech stuff and yet the safety record doesn’t improve and has now apparently gotten worse. There is no question that something is badly out of place.

Pilot error or fumble?

It has long been standard to use the term “pilot error,” as in 86-percent of fatal GA accidents are caused by pilot error. But that it were so simple. To me it really starts with a pilot fumble. The ball is dropped, but the option is still there to recover. The error comes when the pilot fails to recover.

Smoke and flames report – is the GA safety picture changing?

The fatal accident rate has been pretty stable in recent years at just over one per 100,000 flying hours. Nobody will argue that this rate is acceptable. It is not, it is terrible, but it is what we get from our pilot population and the only way to change it would be to alter the behavior of pilots and that’s not going to happen.