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.
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.
In the course of a few days, two old piston twins, a Model B55 Baron and a Piper Navajo, crashed, killing six in each case. My main question about the recent accidents was whether or not they were related to the failure of one engine and the resulting asymmetric thrust.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I was always of two minds about forced landings after a power failure. One, if I thought the engine was going to quit I wouldn’t go flying. Two, I knew that engines did quit so I had best not be surprised if one did, and had best have a plan for what comes next.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I know that there are purists who will sanctimoniously say that there is no excuse for ever flying without options or an “out.” Realistically that is not possible if we use our airplanes to fly where we want to fly when we want to fly.