Safety May be the Death of General Aviation

By Scott Spangler on June 25th, 2012

In her opening statement at the June 19 convocation addressing General Aviation Safety—Climbing to the Next Level, NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said “in spite of improvements to the commercial and corporate aviation safety records, the GA accident rate has been stubbornly resistant to safety initiatives.”

She’ll get no argument that, “the status quo is not acceptable. We need to break through the plateau and bring the accident rate down significantly.” But there will be change, no improvement, if the NTSB works to this mindset: “GA pilots are not learning from the deadly mistakes made by their brethren – not learning from lessons learned in the hardest of ways. Recreational fliers are the chief pilot of an airline of one.”

If the NTSB somehow encourages legislators and the FAA to impose airline and corporate aviation requirements on general aviation, it will surely be the coup de grace.

Comparing airline/corporate aviation and GA safety is apples and oranges. The former has a better record because of two-pilot crews who, motivated by continued employment, must successfully complete professional recurrent education in full fidelity flight simulators at least once a year. And even this is not a guarantee of perfect safety. Like GA pilots, professional pilots are capable of unintended stupid pilot tricks, even when another pro (or two) is double-checking every decision and action.

By reiterating her contention that GA pilots don’t  “learn from their past experiences,” suggests that they commit flight with the intention of having an accident. (Okay, in 2010 there was the disgruntled taxpayer who flew his Piper into an IRS office in Austin, Texas, but that’s an isolated case.) I’ll admit that I don’t get out all that much, but I’ve never met an intentionally stupid GA pilot determined to hurt himself on every flight.

Striving for perfect safety should be the goal of all in aviation, but we must also realize that aviation is not risk free, that everyone is capable of doing something stupid at the wrong time, and that there is no absolute cure for this reality except staying on the ground. –Scott


Related Posts:

55 Responses to “Safety May be the Death of General Aviation”

  1. RayLRiv Says:

    As a private single engine land rated VFR pilot (currently pursuing instrument and Commercial ratings), I’ve decidedto purposely sharpen my GA safety awareness. I also fly as USCG Auxiliary Aviation (AUX AV) Aircrew and as such we attend annual Cockpit Resource Management (CRM) courses and Aviation Safety workshops to remain Aircrew qualified. I attend local FAAST courses when able. If anything both the CG AV and FAAST courses could be valuable, applicable and useful to my personal GA safety awareness.

  2. James Rossie Says:

    I’m a pilot, only about 500 hours but I have my commercial, MEL/SEL and Instrument rating. GA safety is not a simple problem that we can take a hammer to.

    It’s a combination of the personnel factors and training that you mentioned and more.

    First think of the equipment that GA pilots typically operate. Very few of us have top of the line equipment in our planes. It’s just too expensive. I’m not making excuses for pilots, they should always use proper judgement regardless of the equipment, but it’s a factor. Not all of us can afford a $400K airplane with the latest safety tech and avionics.

    Another contributor to GA safety are the environments we operate in. Think of the number of GA accidents that occur at un-towered airports or small unimproved airports. These are environmental factors that airlines and, mostly, corporate fliers don’t have to deal with. I’m curious if anyone has complied statistics that factor out these variables.

    And lastly, like you say Scott, there’s no cure for stupid. Most of us know someone that has more airplane than brains. Someone who’s piloting skills and judgement don’t equal their day job salary. Aviation, like everything else in life, is not risk free.

  3. @williamAirways Says:

    I don’t think there was anything wrong with what Hersman said in her opening address. GA pilots are not learning from the mistakes of others. If they were learning, we wouldn’t have these recurring accident categories like CFIT or VFR-into-IMC, etc. Most GA accidents should never have happened. I have flown with pilots I will never fly with again. I hear pilots on the local frequencies and they clearly have no clue as to what they’re doing out there. Let’s not assume we have skillful pilots in the GA world. We don’t. When the statistics indicate that our accident rates are flat, it means that it’s just a matter of time when the next pilot with no skills become a victim.

    Regarding “aviation is not risk free”, enough already. What is risk free in life? Saying this accomplishes nothing. What have pilots done or are doing to continuously improve their skills in detecting threats/risks when flying an airplane?

    It all comes down to quality flight training. When we have yahoos with a checkbook looking to solo in 10 hours, be done by 40 hours with a willing CFI/flight school, well, you have your answers in the accident database.

  4. Daniel Says:

    Actually, the rules need to be greatly reduced for general aviation. The light sport industry has shown that pilot owners can take care of their own aircraft, and that there is many safety items available to the LSA pilots that greatly increases aircraft reliability and situational awareness that the FAA wont allow to be installed on GA aircraft because they havent passed the stingent guidelinss the FAA set up for them. Everyone should contact their elected officials about reining in the FAA on these matters.

  5. BulentA Says:

    The employment and retirement security of these bureaucrats depends on maintaining and increasing the number of regulations. Just think everybody was perfect and there were not accidents at all. it is like asking the lawyers to vote for tort reform. Good luck.
    “In the name of Public Safety” our freedoms are eroded every day. Get used to it:
    Europe, here we come…..

  6. Peter Says:

    The #1 cause of air accidents: pilot error, so the solution: eliminate pilot error.
    But if pilots are flying around in aircraft equipped with airframe parachutes, weather radar, traffic collision avoidance systems and synthetic vision technology and advanced auto-pilots and still manage to get themselves killed, then they have no excuse, it becomes clear that some accidents are simply unavoidable.
    That said, young men continue to get themselves killed riding motorcycles, and yet nobody’s trying to ban motorcycles right?

    Ultimately the harsh reality evident with the rise of UAVs, is that there is a final solution to pilot error : remove the pilot.
    Eventually, passenger aircraft will be flown by computers, ruled not by pride, bravado and get-home-itis, but by strict algorithms, rules and codes that will never fly off into a thunderstorm, take-off without enough fuel, or with too much payload aboard, or simply stall on take-off.

    I guess it’s time for us to try to enjoy flying while we still can, before the computers take-over completely.

  7. JJ Greenway Says:

    Ok, everybody calm down. I was the one on the panel at the NTSB forum who suggested that if there was mandated annual training and checking for Part 91 operations, then we could attain a higher level of safety. It works for the airlines. It would work for us. Is it practical? Of course not! But when the Honorable Madam Chairman, Deborah Hersman put the question to me as to what I would do to correct the problem, that was my answer! I wasn’t under oath, guess I could have given a “political answer”, but I’ve lost too many friends in GA accidents. I’d like to see the safety record improve! Flying airplanes, large ones or small ones, requires discipline, ethics and motor and cognitive skills. If you do it once a month, you have very little opportunity to keep any of these skills current.

    The average GA pilot flies 10-20 hours per year. Sorry, folks, that’s just not enough to keep current!

    Anyone have any better ideas to improve the GA safety record? Or… maybe it doesn’t need to be improved? 545 deaths per year is acceptable? Maybe it is!

  8. Kent Johns Says:

    Quoting @williamAirways — “It all comes down to quality flight training.” I say a big AMEN to that, Brother. And quality flight training is one helova lot more than just drilling the rules and teaching basic flight maneuvers, navigation and a little Met knowledge.

    A really heads up instructor is constantly hammering the need for situational awareness and responsible decision making…and oh yea, a bit of common sense too.

    Of course, in order to do that well, he/she must have acquired a first-hand, experiential understanding of what all that entails. Some kid who’s only just gotten his Com, IFR & CFI tickets plus maybe a few hundred extra hours is only realistically qualified to take a new student up to the first solo — maybe.

    From there on out the ideal training scenario calls for the young grasshopper to be taken under the wing of one of the salty old dogs who’s been there & done that in the real world of professional aviation.

    We don’t need to try and train “professional” recreational pilots, but it takes true professionals to train competent & safe pilots.

  9. Kent Johns Says:

    Just another quickie. At the end of the above article Scott says, “…everyone is capable of doing something stupid at the wrong time…”

    Betcha just know what’s coming next. When’s the RIGHT TIME to do something stupid, Scott?

    Okay, I’m only half serious about that, but it’s something to think about. Maybe people would get into less trouble if they were constantly asking themselves, “Would this be a good time to do something stupid…like (whatever)?”

  10. JP Says:

    I am a new pilot with 250 hours of airplane time and just got my IFR rating. I have to admit that there are a lot of situations a pilot can get into while flying and some of them can be quite unique. If the correct action is not taken (which generally comes with experience or training or both), an accident can happen. Enforcing more rules is probably not the right answer, however improving training standards is definetely a big step forward. Now that I am already an IFR rated pilot (and I also participate in a lot of self learning excercies on AOPA and attend the safety seminars), I feel that what I was taught when I got my VFR license was barely enough to make me a safe pilot. My instructor only had a few thousand hours of flight time under his belt. I dont think there is a clear answer to the problem, more regulations is definetely not one of them. Better and more stringent training required for getting your license can possibly make a dent in the stats.

  11. Paul Says:

    Comparing commercial airlines flying always flying IFR with recreational GA VFR flying is like comparing scheduled trains with cars.
    There are areas where GA could get better but it would never be as good as commercial aviation.
    On the other hand I cannot understand why we still have stall/spin or fuel mismanagement accidents.

  12. Scott Spangler Says:

    The right (or best) time to do something stupid is at home, before you leave for the airport, when you have witnesses, perferably a spouse and/or children, to reinforce the learning experience that, perhaps, you shouldn’t attempt to repeat it.

  13. JJ Greenway Says:

    Hey Rob!

    Good stuff.

    But I am NOT the bad guy for suggesting at the NTSB forum last week higher training/checking standards for part 91.

    I will say though, it never ceases to amaze me, the mind-numbing regularity of the accident claims that come across my desk here, pilots doing the same thing over and over again with the same failed outcome.

    Love the dialog that your blog always initiates! It’s good for the industry!


    JJ Greenway

  14. IAFARMER Says:

    Here’s the trick: I’d bet that 99% of flight accidents happen because on that particular day, either the plane or the pilot should have stayed in the hangar. 1.) The weather was crappy. 2.) The pilot should have judged him (her) self not up to the task. 3.) The plane was not up to the task. No amount of regulation will change any of those three things. Checklists needed on all three. And to BulentA: I have said for years that the success of a bureaucrat is judged by superiors on only three things: the number of changes made compared to previous bureaucrats, the amount of paperwork generated, and their efficiency in spending the entire budget, but not one penny more.

  15. Old Jim (capt) Says:

    The NTSB is going the same way as the FAA.Buerocratic one size fits all. They are into safety and they must regulate it to the ground.Cos’d a Grouned aeroplane is a Safe aeroplane. A grounded Pilot is a Safe Pilot. Look out guys, there coming.

  16. DavidS Says:

    As an aviation writer, I’ve covered a lot of safety issues. Last time I checked, the two most common causes of GA accidents were: 1) a VFR pilot flying VFR into IFR weather, and 2) flying the fuel tanks dry.

    I use checklists religiously and preflight as if my life depends on it. But I have met GA pilots who seem to have no use for checklists or preflights. Training is important and useful but it’s hard to legislate against stupidity and mule-headedness.

    To paraphrase Scripture: “The asses will always be with us.” I try to name them when I see them and I pray that they are alone in the cockpit when they kill themselves.

  17. John Says:

    I have a copy of the 1972 AIM part I with excerpts from 2, 3 and 4. It is 68 pages long. Need I say more? I fly just as safely now as I did then and it has nothing to do with regulations. Safety is an attitude.

  18. Paul Says:

    The difference between a professional and a schmuck is not only their training, but their continual training. Doctors, lawyers, police officers, engineers, professional pilots etc all have required training every year so that they are aware of changes in policy, practice or the laws. As pilots, we all take pride in our certificates and being part of a small community of people who have put in the time, effort and money, lots of money, to be there. But that also mean that we are representatives of that group as well. People dont see us as individuals, but as a group, when one of us does something foolish, the media and public doesnt see the one pilot, but all pilots; if you disagree go talk to a police officer about public perception of the group over the individual. My long winded point is that there are too many accidents in GA and we, as pilots, have the responsibility to lower those numbers. If that means spending some time in a class room and not at Hooters, then it is a price well worth it.

  19. David Says:

    GA pilots are not learning from the deadly mistakes made by their brethren

    That’s a distraction and an ignorant statement to make. She has not a scintilla of proof of that statement. There are as many reasons as there are individuals in GA why accidents continue to occur. She just doesn’t have an answer for the variables of the human condition in a freer, less regulated state than the commercial operations of today.

    For me, I could care less if people fly into mountains, run out of fuel, or choose ego over humility and kill themselves in aeroplanes. I don’t identify with any other pilots other than those I know, just like I don’t identify with other auto drivers, workers, or golfers when I’m on the links. Yet I’m always promoting flying when I can, and consider ‘safety’ to be nothing more than being prepared as best one can for flight.

    A 112 year old woman recently passed on I became aware of. Right to the end, she had a clear mind, socialized, and played Scrabble. Her advice to those inquiring of her longevity – ‘Don’t waste time fussing about things you can’t change.’ Even a bureaucrat could learn something from her.

  20. Rick Freeman Says:

    My opinion is that three take-offs and landings every ninety days for currency is inadequate, a biennial flight review is inadequate. Currency should be what it means, not occasional. Currency should require maneuvers; stalls, steep turns, etc besides pattern work that should include crosswind landings and take-offs. I am a retired airline guy and a CFI, who has an RV, I still fly. I will fly with anyone for free who wants to stay current. I am more concerned with a safe pilot than I am with dollars in my pocket. I urge others at the end of their career to do the same, for me it is time to give back and help the community stay alive………

  21. Valerie Lynn Says:

    How much risk are we, the general public, willing to tolerate?

    I believe DOT, FAA, NTSB and the public respond with “ZERO!”

    That is a noble response, but the regulation required to grind risk down to zero is stifling and applied unevenly.

    Case in point: Drug and Alcohol Testing and Training Programs for 14 CFR 91.147 Operators, 135 Operators, 121 Operators, Mechanics, Repair Stations but not LHFE Exempt Operators (all of who are in “safety-sensitive” positions).

    I’m not in favor of blindly applying the regs to everyone for the sake of uniformity.

    However, if we define safety-sensitive positions and require drug testing for safety-sensitive positions, what does it mean when not all folks in safety-sensitive positions are tested yet all folks are operating aircraft for compensation or hire?

    Next, have you actually read 49 CFR 40 and 14 CFR 120? Implementing a Drug and Alcohol Testing and training program is an administrative nightmare, requiring attention to detail (do this before that and document that you did before that!), excellent record-keeping, solid knowledge of the regulations and time (or money if you hire someone else, who is never, ever legally liable, to do it for you).

    Now, while I personally have no problem with random drug and alcohol testing for folks in safety-sensitive positions, it is an administrative and financial burden to maintain a program and understand it well enough to survive a Drug and Alcohol Abatement inspection without civil penalty and I cannot help but think there must be a better way.

    All of that being said, in 2010, the industry random drug test positive rate was 0.503% – of all the folks in aviation who were required to and randomly chosen to present themselves for drug testing, less than 1% tested positive (the industry positive rate for alcohol was slightly lower… at .11%).

    Another way to look at this: Just over half a percent of folks in aviation safety-sensitive positions tested positive for cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, phencyclidine (PCP), ecstasy or marijuana either just before or just after they were flying around commercially or before or after after they worked on the airplane that was flying commercially.

    Is this “acceptable?” Would you sit in the back of the plane with a guy or gal who was inebriated or stoned?

    If not, how can we, as operators, assure the flying public (that’s us too when we’re riding in the back), that folks who have a hand in the operation of their flight aren’t high or drunk without having over-burdensome regulations?


  22. JohnnH. Bisscheroux Says:

    Indeed ! Forcing pilots to commit more “stuff’
    to memory is NOT the way to go.

    Paying more attention to improving General Airmanship will solve the majority of stupid mistakes.

    Since this is not the bureaucrat’s way of solving things, we as pilots should be more open to accepting the self-discipline needed to practice good Airmanship, and that can be as simple as replacing a memory item with a visual scan, left to right, when pre-flighting the cockpit of an average general aviation aircraft.

    More complicated aircraft already are well administered through the use of checklists and good cockpit management, so they need not more, but quality improvements where the outfit is a bit lacks.

  23. JohnnH. Bisscheroux Says:

    Oh, and one more thing whilst reading other remarks in this spread.

    The level of absolute perfection is never achieved by human controlled activities, so why are we getting upset about 0.05 % drug cases in aviation and are non-challantly accepring the carnage on the highways and city streets, pray-tell ?

  24. JohnnH. Bisscheroux Says:

    Currency of flying. Flying costs money. Therefore, when it is wise to fly as much as is possible, the relative cost goes up and up.
    Hence……….the higher the cost, the lower the flying hours bought.
    Solving this equasion to benefit more flying should be foremost in the bureaucrat’s mind when trying to improve safety and this to be followed by more frequent pilots get-togethers and disussions about Airmanship.
    I have taken much of this space already and will leave you-all with these thoughts.

  25. Brian Manlove Says:

    1. Always wear a helmet, even when just going for a walk. (one never can tell WHAT might happen!)
    2. Never take any unnecessary chances.
    3. Always ask mommy if it’s ok before acting.
    4. Keep moving towards pricing aviation beyond any normal human being’s reach, and you will have a 100% safety record.
    5. Remember that we USED TO BE a free country.

  26. Ron Says:

    It’s true, modern society has no tolerance for risk anymore. Whether it’s driving, walking, or flying, the only thing acceptable is 100% safety.

    Of course, we cannot achieve that unless we stay on the ground. Sadly, that’s becoming the norm for too many of us due to the financial constraints of the “new economy”. There are other ways to kill general aviation, however, and the NTSB seems focused on one of them with the continual push to mandate new regulations, equipment, training, and oversight. It’s a pity the NTSB is focused solely on safety without paying heed to what that safety will cost. The price isn’t always measured in dollars.

    GA has a higher accident rate that the airlines for many reasons, but the primary one is that GA pilots have the freedom to do many things that the airline guys do not. And I hope that never changes. To paraphrase Dick Rutan, where would we be without those who were willing to risk life and limb using their freedom to do these things? We’d be safe and sound, on the ground, still headed west as we look out over the rump of oxen from our covered wagons.

    Whether it’s cruising down the coast at 500′ enjoying the view, taking an aerobatic flight, flying formation, flight testing an experimental airplane, or landing on a sandbar, beach, grass strip, or backcountry field, it’s important that private individuals not find themselves restricted to the ways and means of Part 121 operations.

    We do the things that make flying fun. Doing it “like the airlines” can only drive up the price and suck out the fun of aviation.

    It’s true that GA flying can be safer. I’m certainly not opposed to safer aircraft, more training, or higher standards. Those things are all important. But they’ll will only be effective when they come from within rather than being imposed from a bureaucracy which already demands so much.

  27. Bruce Larsen Says:

    Has the NTSB considered too much regulation as a safety concern? Perhaps this should be the first item on their list. As others have stated, we can’t afford $500K airplanes with the newest technology. But why should we be stuck with antique equipment because the certification process so raises the costs and reduces the market? Each time you see the increased price, you are seeing the cost of regulation. Can anyone make any claim that the identical part sent with the regulatory required certification is any safer? And this is a barrier to safety. Reducing the regulatory burden should be their goal to increase safety.

  28. Tony Wright Says:

    One of my best friends(a 5000 hour ex Vietnam era Marine Corps F-4 pilot)killed himself several years ago. We had been talking in the hanger the day before about “not doing anything stupid”. He then went out, decided to buzz a mutual friend’s house inverted in his Pitts, and hit a tall tree. How much “continuing training” would have prevented that accident? All the contiuing training needed is “don’t do nothing stupid!”

  29. Victor Says:

    We can look at recent accident, in which professional airline pilots made deadly mistakes. Colgan flight and Air France flight. Two accidents that had professional flight crews and both made a student pilot mistake. They stalled the airplane. Yes, GA can do better and we should try to do better, but the NTSB some how believes, we set out to dive into the ground. More rules will do nothing to help improve safety, just like requiring an ATP to work for a commuter, that didn’t help the Air France flight.

  30. Terry D. Welander Says:

    By the accident numbers: on average, auto drivers have 3 accidents
    in their driving careers. If there are 200 aircraft accidents per year on
    average and there are 200,000 pilots, or 200,000 divided by 200 is
    1000 years for a pilot to have an accident on average. Or if the typical
    pilot flies 50 years, that pilot has 50 divided by 1000 or one chance in
    20 of having an accident in a 50 year flying career on average.

    One chance in twenty compared to 3 chances of an auto accident
    makes flying 60 times safer than driving; the difference due nearly
    exclusively to the aircraft training methods and flight instruction.

    Trying to make something safer than more than 60 times safer than
    the most common form of transportation is irrational and absurd;
    particularly on a cost benefit basis.

    The situation is even worse because of the significant hardship
    additional testing would bring to these 200,000 pilots; with no gain
    because distractions and errors are the problem, not flight proficiency.

    The most common stupid errors can be programed out of a pilot
    by knowing or memorizing check lists cold and using them more
    than once during each task; such as eliminating: forgetting to switch
    fuel tanks, forgetting to pull out or engage carb heat when landing,
    checking fuel and oil level before takeoff; not insuring the removal
    of flaps before take off (on trainer aircraft). Theses stupid errors
    account for about half of all aircraft accidents based on NTSB

    The rest of the aircraft accidents are judgement errors that just
    do not happen twice and are too numerous or possible to train for;
    much less test for. Only an alertness to abnormalities based on
    familiarity with an aircraft and the weather prevent these kinds of
    errors in judgement; nothing to do with flight proficiency; which
    means followup testing would be useless.

    A pilot can make 10,000 perfect landings and have a unique set
    of circumstances arise causing an accident; which are the non
    stupid half of all aircraft accidents. Of course the most common
    is flying into weather beyond the capability of the aircraft or the
    pilot. No testing in existence or followup testing prepares a pilot to prevent these types of errors; only good pilot judgement.

  31. Dale Rust Says:

    This could be a lengthy disertation but I will keep it .. short? No.1, We keep talking about “lack of currency” or “re-currency”, when the real problem is pilots never learned the proper technique in the first place … short field and X-wind come to mind. A flight review 10 years down the road is meaningless, if one is attempting to ‘review’ something that was never SUFFICIENTLY learned in the first place. No.2, Getting from A to B is the real killer .. especially when A & B are far apart and, or A & B involve an over-nighter. Of course, that’s the main reason most pilots want to fly .. i.e., getting from A to B, never really comprehending the significance of coping with the nuances of weather. Perhaps the FAA’s idea of ‘Scenerio based training’ will help here … which should have been stressed 50 years ago. As I have shown outside my office, “Learning to fly may take 4o – 50 hours .. learning when NOT to fly can take a lifetime”. There are times when planes need to stay on the ground. Ex-Corporate (21 years) and a CFII for 52+ years.

  32. Victor Says:

    There’s obviously an agenda at both the NTSB and the FAA and I can only imagine what it could be. Perhaps they want it to be like in China, where there is practically no GA. That would make their jobs easier, since all they have to deal with, would be with Air Lines pilots, and the system would still not be 100% safe.

  33. Safety May be the Death of General Aviation – Jetwhine | Share My Aircraft News Says:

    […] In her opening statement at the June 19 convocation addressing General Aviation Safety?Climbing to the Next Level, NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said ……/safety-may-death-general-aviation… […]

  34. Paul B Says:

    After reading some of the responses, perhaps they should do away with the Class III medicals and implement a Class III psychological exam. So for those who special few who believe that it all is one giant conspiracy, here is what is really going on.
    The Government, who is controlled by the Free masons, has created an alliance with the space aliens who crashed at Roswell to take over the world. As part of this plan, the Free Masons are using the FAA and the NTSB to shut down GA so that the flying saucers will have greater freedom to fly around and abduct women for fertilization experiments and the men for anal probingWhy? because space aliens are just plain kinky. Airline pilots are not a concern for reporting the UFOs as they all have been brain washed by subliminal messages from their flight simulator training. To maintain secrecy and deniability, the Government and the UN (run by the Illuminati) have outsourced the plan to Sasquatch in North America, the Lock Ness Monster in Europe, and the Yeti in Asia. The involvement of the Yeti, who is Chinese, explains why American jobs are being sent to China.
    Once GA is destroyed and all of the earths inhabitants have been probed in to complacency, the Government will merge with the UN creating the New World Order. The N.O.W. will then outlaw all free speech, fatty foods, and firearms. Money will be outlawed and the world economy will be based on fair trade and sharing. Men in black will then go on a house to house search taking all contraband. These events were prophesized by Nostradamus, and in the Bible code, and are written in the secret Mayan calendar which is hidden in the second White House beneath Mount Rushmore.

  35. David Says:

    You’ve got it right, Paul B. Only none of what you say will happen because according to the Mayan calendar the world will cease to exist in a few months anyway. Pity.

  36. Kent Johns Says:

    @Paul B — Priceless!

  37. JohnnH. Bisscheroux Says:

    We are slightly flying off track chaps, are we not? All good humor aside, of course !

  38. Furbish Says:

    >> One chance in twenty compared to 3 chances of an auto accident makes flying 60 times safer than driving; the difference due nearly exclusively to the aircraft training methods and flight instruction. <<

    Use a calculator, go to jail. This post is complete nonsense. How many hours do you suppose the average pilot spends flying over even a 50 year career, vs the number of hours spent driving over the same 50 years? For most pilots, the difference in exposure is huge – not to mention that there are many categories of aircraft accident that have a very high fatality rate. There aren't a lot of VFR-into-IMC fender-benders. Without normalizing the number of accidents to the actual exposure to the hazard (you can't have an aviation accident if you're not flying) this kind of "safety" comparison is meaningless.

    And I think you're rather helping Ms. Hersman make her point about not learning: GA pilots keep doing the same "stupid pilot tricks" over and over and over, despite plenty of evidence that the consequences may be fatal. While the ability to fly like a nitwit with a death wish may be the price of freedom, it's a high price.

  39. Kent Johns Says:

    @Dale Rust – “…We keep talking about lack of currency or re-currency, when the real problem is pilots never learned the proper technique in the first place…” Agreed 100 X 100 percent.

    I’ve noticed a few comments bemoaning costs that preclude both installed technology and the ability for one to spend more time in practice. Neither the practicing of a bunch of bad habits or the purchase of a technology which tends to give the impression one has been relieved of the responsibility to think are the answer to greater safety.

    There are probably a lot of people on here who will miss the depth of meaning in this statement, but I’ll make it anyway: Maybe what we need is a return to doing primary training in tail draggers. There aren’t many things that will teach you about the consequences of your actions (or inactions) and what can happen when you stop paying constant attention, like wrestling a cantankerous old tail dragger.

    No, this is not about flying tail draggers. It’s about the kind of mind set one needs to acquire so as not to be made a fool of by the machine. It’s a mind set that not only affects (and improves) our flying, but also extends to our driving and probably most of our other endeavors as well. It’s akin to a situational awareness, but even more focused than the popular concept of the term. It’s about constant attention to where, what and how things are happening around you; other factors in your environment and how they may be about to affect what you’re experiencing. It’s about how, based on all incoming information, you instinctively and instantly create an accurate picture of what you can expect in the next few minutes or seconds…and maybe even what you need to do about it before it needs to be done.

    And no, learning by training in a tail dragger won’t automagically put you into that mind set, but it will go a long way toward instilling in you an awareness that there’s a lot more to flying an airplane than just shoving the throttle forward and pulling back on the wheel.

    Contrast todays cookie cutter training to the “old” kind of training where your flight school used to be a full service FBO that also ran charters. A lot of those charters were single pilot freight operations and every time a charter airplane left on a trip you could bet that some eager student was holding down the right seat. Close observation of a seasoned, ATP senior flight instructor on an IFR flight plan, day, night or in actual IMC and picking up tips from him over a flight of several hours can accomplish a whole lot of things that sitting in a ground school class or bumping around in the practice area can’t even begin to simulate.

  40. Joseph Says:

    With the accelerating growth in information technology (IT) a lot of the GA issues that are being discussed now will not exist within 10 years. CPUs, memory, sensors, etc are all shrinking in size while increasing in capabilities and power and we will have technologies and systems that won’t let pilots have “bad days”. I can’t predict the exact form factors but just as one simple example – Google just announced their “Project Glass” eye wear. One can imagine the possibilities in that exist now… voice activated checklists & system schematics, synthetic vision (e.g. WingX Pro), emergency approaches (e.g. VP400) etc., etc., etc. And this is NOW… try to imagine in 10 years when IT is 1,000’s of times more powerful.

  41. David Says:

    Maybe what we need is a return to doing primary training in tail draggers. >

    Ah those days, of rotary phones, walking to school in 25 inches of snow, spin training, no headsets with instructors shouting at the student, everything was so much better then.

    Wrestling a taildragger on the ground, adding stress, risk, and adding nothing whatsoever to the beauty, safety and precision of flight is, well, silly to watch and useless to perform. Some here probably will miss the depth of the meaning of that statement, but that’s ok. Change can be hard – and safety is not a broad reality for all, but an individual perception of varying degrees. Old fashioned taildraggers, wing warping, gyroscopic torque from the old rotary engines, spin training, these all gave way to advances in awareness to make flying safer and more enjoyable. This newest generation of kids can’t write in old-timey cursive, and that has nothing whatsoever to do with how well they write.

    I’m sure I would be a more patient individual if I had to wait for the postal carrier to bring me each response to every blog post instead of instantly reading them on my computer. I don’t value looking back 5 minutes let alone 50 years, and find this old, silly idea of making flying more difficult than it needs to be rather sad. But on and on it lives, providing humor for those with the eyes to see on windy Saturdays from some fool ending his wonderful flight with a ground loop.

  42. JohnnH. Bisscheroux Says:

    Joseph Says:
    June 29th, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    All very to the point observations, however, tunnel vision has a way of ignoring even the best designed warnings ! Talk to military pilot who had their ass shot at by a heatseaking missile(s) ! I am sure there are a zillion examples like this, even the one involving “gethomitis”

  43. Kent Johns Says:

    >Wrestling a taildragger on the ground, adding stress, risk, and adding nothing whatsoever to the beauty, safety and precision of flight is, well, silly to watch and useless to perform.<

    It's just like I said. Someone will entirely miss the point.

  44. Steve Seltveit Says:

    Enjoyed most of the comments. I think general aviation has taken a huge hit with the increased cost of flying. This makes for less time in the seat of the aircraft and less proficient pilots. As a CFII I believe that it is essential situational awareness be drilled into the student’s mind. This means for all phases, i.e. pycologiical, weather, aircraft’s condition and ability. But most importantly is to make the student aware of “his or her” limits of flight. All the time stressing “SAFETY” as a primary concern, honing the pilots skill level to be the “master” of the aircraft and flight for a enjoyable outcome. You cannot regulate the outcome of safe flight by more regulations any more than you could keep people from being overweight by banning the spoon!

  45. John Bisscheroux Says:

    According to David Says;

    “Wrestling a taildragger on the ground, adding stress, risk, and adding nothing whatsoever to the beauty, safety and precision of flight is, well, silly to watch and useless to perform”

    My comment;

    You’re addressing this to one who has over 8000 take-offs and landings in Birddogs and I do think you’re a bit silly to (even) mention this as it proves, to me, that you are in need of some more exposure to flying skills.

  46. Kent Johns Says:

    @John Bisscheroux — Re: your response to David – Well said and to the point.

  47. Joaeph Says:

    “however, tunnel vision has a way of ignoring even the best designed warnings ! Talk to military pilot who had their ass shot at by a heatseaking missile(s) ! I am sure there are a zillion examples like this, even the one involving gethomitis”

    At the very least, even if for whatever reason pilots develop “tunnel vision” or “freeze”, future systems will still prevent pilots from “buying the farm”. We already have “robot cars” being tested in Nevada and Florida and soon California… so imagine when technology is 1,000s of times more powerful within 10 years.

  48. Private Jet Hire Direct Says:

    I’m sure it will be the poor GA pilots who will bear the cost of any new legislation. Lets get a grip here whether GA or commercial flying is still safer than walking around the streets of many of our cities.

  49. John the geezer Says:

    Based upon my experience (aprox 50 years) proficency can be taught but judgement cannot. Errors occur and will continue to occur because of a failure of judgement. I agree that learning to fly in a conventional geared aircraft is more changling and perhaps creates a somewhat more careful pilot but judgement will always rule the day.

  50. Paul Says:

    Let’s replace all 180hp airplanes with Diamond DA40s. That would increase safety significantly.

  51. Ron Says:

    I think returning to tailwheels is an excellent idea. ASF accident statistics show that the takeoff and landing phases are where many of these accidents happen, so if we want to concentrate on things we can fix (skill issues) rather than things we can’t (judgement issues), it seems logical to focus on stick-and-rudder proficiency.

  52. Paul B Says:

    Go to the NTSB accident data base,, and read some of their reports. Most all of the accidents were avoidable with some basic common sense and humility. As we get further from our basic training we forget steps and procedures or simple skip over them because Im an experienced pilot.
    If we in the GA community dont try and solve our accident rate ourselves, the FAA will do it for us. The AOPA offers on- line seminars and conferences all the time, all of us can take an hour out of the month to watch a video on preflight procedures, communications, decision making etc., or sit through a seminar. You might even learn something new or at least make a few new friends. My last comment before I relinquish the soapbox is a paraphrase from Charles Darwin. Those who do not learn, adapt and change with the demands of their environment will become extinct.

  53. Kent Johns Says:

    Naturally I have to agree. The only issue for the short term would be finding instructors to teach tailwheel techniques, not to mention a few financial and logistical challenges in getting the primary training fleet switched over.

    In fact, in addition to ground handling, it would also be beneficial to take it all the way back to simulate the days when very few airplanes even had flaps and pilots had to learn the art of executing slips and cross-control landings with some degree of finesse.

  54. Paul Says:

    Returning to tailwheels is a joke. If pilots get into accidents in tricycle gear they would get into even more accidents in tailwheel airplanes. Making some activity more complex does not increase safety.

  55. Kent Johns Says:

    >Making some activity more complex does not increase safety.<

    Only the truly inexperienced or the very young can be so supremely confident in their vast storehouse of knowledge in all things.

    You're addressing a branch of the thread that's all about training. On the contrary, increasing complexity during training is the only way to ensure continual improvement. Anybody who feels he should be given an airplane that will take complete and todal care of him under any circumstances is living in a fantasy world and is himself an accident waiting to happen.

Subscribe without commenting