Hang around aviation long enough and you will hear some strange things. Here are seven stories that show how even simple mistakes can have serious consequences, but also how a little ingenuity can solve some vexing problems.
Miles ahead, the familiar view of the Sacramento Delta with its intricate sloughs, channels, and levees, had been replaced by an enormous inland sea. There was no mistaking it. How could I not know about this! I queried ATC with a mixture of bafflement and curiosity.
Structural ice is a known flight hazard and there are plenty of forecasting products to help a pilot avoid it. Curiously, there is another type of icing that has sent its share of airplanes to the salvage yard, and pilots to the graveyard. Because it is mainly an affliction of low-performance aircraft, it doesn’t receive as much attention.
This photograph was taken just after a cold front associated with a low pressure system passed over the field. The system’s passage was preceded by a pulse of moisture with intense precipitation and a dramatic shift in wind. Twenty minutes later the leading edge of the front spawned a tornado – unusual in central California.
The Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) is where maintenance technicians, pilots, controllers, etc. can anonymously report inadvertent violations of regulations or unsafe conditions which resulted from their action (or inaction). I have never been deterred from submitting an ASRS report for a transgression, mistake or bad decision. And I’ve had plenty of material to work with.
During the holiday season of 1968, in an isolated Pennsylvania community, Allegheny Airlines’ professionalism, safety culture and luck would abandon the airline to a sequence of events no fiction writer could invent. And the echo of those tragedies continues to resonate a half century later.
We all have occasion to read accident reports, now and then, and hope to learn something for our effort. When we step into the cockpit, these thoughts are set aside in order to focus on the tasks of flying. It is only in the rarest circumstances when mortality infiltrates the cockpit and stubbornly takes hold.