Dick Collins has been reading accident reports for over 50 years. In this new feature, he reviews all the general aviation accidents from February 2010. What can we learn from these sad events?
I have done more research on the accident records than anyone and learned long ago that there are few absolutes. The safety potential of any flight is affected by countless variables, none of which relate to whether a flight is for business or pleasure.
Most of us remember notable things about our flying, check rides for example. When I was starting out and collecting certificates and ratings, it seemed like I was constantly either preparing for, or taking check rides. Some were more fun than others and I can honestly say that none made me nervous.
Some years ago I got interested in the role of pilot incapacitation in serious general aviation accidents. There are some who think sugar-coating helps on things like this. I don’t. What I found was revealing and it is worth a review.
Weather expert Richard Collins shares his perspective on Sandy, the super storm that hammered the northeast US this week. Learn why the storm turned back to the west, and how Collins rode out the storm.
Dick Collins shares a confession: “almost 60 years ago I wanted very badly to become an airline pilot.” He explains why in this trip through history, complete with DC-3 flights, local service airlines and $7 airfares.
From the comments on our series about the declining pilot population, there is no question that a lot of people think that the cost of flying is driving old people away and scaring away new people. I said that I though cost was an excuse, not a reason, and some of you took issue with that. Having been an active pilot and observer of the scene since 1951, I will try to put some of this in context.
After reading Dr. Stephen Gray’s article about his trans-Pacific flight in a Beech Duchess, I had one of those old deja vu all over again feelings. In the first years that I worked for Air Facts, starting in 1958, we reported on a number of long distance flights. Some were flown by Air Facts contributors who then wrote about their flights in our magazine.
We watched the moon landing on July 21, 1969 with some British friends. After the landing, one Brit, who worked on elements of the space program, said, “You must be proud to be an American.” I was and still am thanks to the fact that I have shared and still share this great country with some wonderful and exceptional people. This brings me to Neil Armstrong, Gone West on August 25 at 82.
Back in the good old days, there was a lot of scud running and not much real IFR. A lot of us thought that the best way to improve the general aviation safety picture would be to get more people into IFR flying. But one of life’s simplest pleasures comes in realizing that you were wrong about something and that is true here.
The NTSB recently made a startling (to it) discovery that there is latency involved with the Nexrad pictures that pilots are looking at as they try to avoid weather. To read the NTSB Safety Alert on the subject, you get the feeling that they just crawled out of a hole and discovered weather in the cockpit.
After the tragic crash of a Pilatus PC-12 in Florida, Richard Collins reflects on flying with family. He says, “One of the reasons I became such a weather geek over the years was if I was going to fly my family in clouds, I was going to understand everything there was to know about those clouds.” Does flying with family change the way you fly?
I sort of stirred up a hornet’s nest with a recent post about Cirrus airplanes and Cirrus pilots. A few commenters compared the discussion with ones about the Beech V-tail (Model 35) Bonanzas a long time ago. That airplane was actually referred to by many as the “V-tail doctor killer” back in its heyday. As with the Cirrus, the problem was more with pilots than with the airplane.
Piper Aircraft Corporation was formed in 1937 by W. T. Piper, Sr. Over its 75 years there have been many ups and downs and changes. A brief history is available on Wikipedia. Here I would like to offer some anecdotes about how I related to the company over the years.
Despite all the safety features it has, from a glass cockpit to a whole airframe parachute, the Cirrus SR-22 has a higher fatal accident rate than most similar airplanes from other manufacturers. Why has this come to be true? It can only be because of one thing: the Cirrus pilot.
Is it possible to know at all times what you’re doing when you’re flying? It is not only possible to know exactly what you are doing at all times, it is required. Put another way, right before every accident a pilot is flying without knowing everything that is going on in, with, around and about his airplane.
The FAA is famous for writing proposals using illumination from burning airplane wreckage. The latest is a notice of proposed rulemaking that would increase the requirements for a pilot to serve as a first officer on U. S. passenger and cargo airlines. To say that this is probably the most sweeping change ever proposed is almost an understatement.
We have had the debate on pilot age and it goes on. For this one we are talking about airplanes. Will our fleet of older airplanes fly on for five more years? Ten? Forever? Do you feel as comfortable about mechanical reliability in an older airplane as in a newer one?
In this frank and personal article, Collins says he decided to “stop [flying PIC] with satisfaction” at age 74. His last flight was a good one, but “limiting flights to good weather took all the challenge and fun out of my flying. To me, dealing with inclement weather in light airplanes is one of the most interesting things that a pilot can do.”
I am writing this on October 25, 2011. On October 25, 1951 I, a rebellious 17-year old juvenile delinquent, walked into the flight school office at Harrell Field in Camden, Arkansas, to take a flying lesson. My instructor, Rudy Peace, a wonderful person and pilot and later a fine friend, awaited. Also waiting was Aeronca Champ (7AC) N1154E.