In this important new article, Richard Collins sums up over 50 years of aviation safety writing with three key concepts – “the things that a pilot really needs to know to stay alive.” It turns out safe flying has a lot more to do with mindset than fancy maneuvers.
I never knew what people really meant when they talked about flying “hard” IFR. The implication is that there is also “easy” IFR but nobody seemed to know the exact difference between the two. The most logical thing we can do is examine things we can do to keep instrument flying from becoming “hard” IFR.
Before you accuse me of throwing gasoline on a fire, I’ll say up front that is exactly what I am doing. The airplane, it seems, has become almost secondary. It is this that has sparked the debate. Is the tail wagging the dog?
When contemplating a smoking hole made by an airplane, “That was a dumb mistake” is a frequent pronouncement. I think that is misleading because I am not aware of any smart mistakes, especially in airplanes. It just takes a relatively high level of native (as opposed to educated on things other than flying) intelligence to perform well as a pilot.
Here is a list of the things that I think define a sharp pilot. This is based on well over 50 years of studying general aviation accidents, the theory being that sharp pilots don’t crash. I put “aware” first.
A Phenom 100 light jet, flown single-pilot by its owner, a physician and businessman, crashed into three houses when on final approach to runway 14 at Montgomery County Airpark. That this is a PR disaster for general aviation and for that airport is an understatement. It would be hard to think of anything more tragic.
Wind can and does affect the airspeed of an airplane in flight, drastically in some situations. Many pilots didn’t, and some still don’t, think that wind can be a big factor in this regard. A steady wind can’t, but wind that changes in direction or velocity over altitude or distance can have a profound effect on airspeed.
Flying with my father meant that airplanes were part of my life from the very beginning. I have seen the highs and the lows as well as all in between and I have enjoyed every minute of it. Someone asked me if I grew up around airplanes. I said, no, I grew up with airplanes.
If talking about safety is an aeronautical sin, meet the two biggest perps, my father, Leighton Collins, and myself. Guilty as charged since February, 1938, when AIR FACTS started.
I don’t think that I believed I would ever see a search as long, expensive, and detailed as the one for the Malaysian 777. I did, though, in my time in the business, have some interesting experiences related to searching for lost airplanes.
The crash of a DHC-8-400 (Q400) on approach to Buffalo, N. Y. brought on the all-time most egregious case of smoke and flames rulemaking by the FAA. It was dictated by Congress, it makes no sense, and it will have a lasting deleterious effect on air service to smaller cities and on airline flying as a profession.
We have been inundated by speculation on the missing Malaysian 777 but nowhere have I seen the event connected to another eerily similar event from over 50 years ago, on March 14, 1962 to be precise.
I have found that the safety record of an airplane relates more to who flies it and what they try to do with it than anything else. Maybe the pilot is 90 percent of the equation and the airplane ten. When thinking of it in this way, the Mooney 20 series is by far the most diverse airplane in the fleet.
Everyone who writes about aviation safety eventually comes around to the subject of risk management. The FAA wants CFIs to teach it using checklists, which is hardly realistic. The simple truth is that risk management can be done only through a deal the pilot makes with self.
I was challenged to write something like this a while back and spent time looking at blank screens before finally formulating an idea. The challenge was to write about the good, but I feel compelled to write about some of the good and the bad.
Where? Simple. Ice is where you find it. As pilots we have to accept the fact that ice will be forecast when it is cold and there are clouds but if we are to get any utility out of our airplanes in the wintertime, we have to develop the weather wisdom to recognize the times when ice is likely and when it is not.
Dick Collins spent decades flying through ice in piston airplanes, and says he had “only a few truly memorable ice encounters.” In this fascinating and educational article, he shares the lessons he learned–and some advice you won’t read in any textbook.
In a posting about the future and the relationship between present and past costs, I referred to transportation airplanes as those cruising at 140 knots or more. At least one reader questioned this and noted the value of slower airplanes for transportation, at least over shorter distances. Was he right?
When Bob Buck’s book Weather Flying was released in 1970, it became an instant classic. Wolfgang Langewiesche said of it, “Other books explain how weather is made; this book explains how weather is flown.” Truer words were never spoken.
To show that things do happen in threes, there have been two more high-profile accidents on visual approaches since the Asiana crash. These accidents are equally thought-provoking and offer more lessons to learn.