While the NTSB’s preliminary statistics show that the number of general aviation accidents dropped again last year, as did the number of people killed, the estimated number of hours flown also dropped, resulting in a slight increase in both the overall and fatal accident rates.
Recently, NTSB Chairman Deborah A. P. Hersman issued a warning that those in the government and aviation industry who are enamored of the planned Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) should get their heads out of the clouds and realize that the people who will have to use the system—i.e., the air traffic controllers—are as important to safety as the automation itself.
The NTSB’s findings on the famed aviator’s fatal crash
The NTSB says the probable cause of the 2007 crash of adventurer Steve Fossett was an inadvertent encounter with downdrafts above mountainous terrain that exceeded the climb capability of the Bellanca Super Decathlon he was flying. Downdrafts, high-density altitude and mountainous terrain were all contributing factors.
When accessible, pitot tubes and static ports should be checked in every preflight
The crash of Air France Flight 447, an Airbus A330, in the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009, during a flight from Brazil to Paris focused attention on pitot tubes, although many people had never heard of them before.
Investigating violent oscillations that led to structural failure
In April, the NTSB advised the FAA to ground all Zodiac CH 601XL S-LSA and E-LSA until the FAA determines they have adequate protection from aerodynamic flutter, which occurs when airplane structures vibrate back and forth in increasingly violent oscillations, eventually reaching a point where the structure breaks apart.
Controllers offer assistance, but it’s the pilot’s responsibility to manage the flight
Each year, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), the union representing FAA controllers, honors members who’ve helped save pilots from dangerous situations that might have resulted in accidents.
The NTSB says it’s time to rethink something most GA pilots learned early in their training: If a circuit breaker trips while you’re flying, it’s okay to reset it after allowing a minute or two for it to cool, even if you have no idea what caused it to trip and cut off electrical power to a particular circuit.
Glass cockpits ease workload, but pilots shouldn’t forget to maintain their flying proficiency
While I was at an FBO at the Westchester County Airport north of New York City a couple of days ago, a guy I hadn’t seen in a long time walked in. We immediately started catching up on a host of things, not the least of which were the predictable topics of what we’re flying and how much (or little) we’re getting in the air these days.
US Airways Flight 1549 is reminiscent of other successful ditchings
Without diminishing in any way the heroic actions of the pilots, flight attendants and passengers on US Airways Flight 1549, which was successfully ditched in the Hudson River after a bird strike on January 15, it’s important to note that most ditchings actually have a high survival rate.
The quantity and quality of information have improved, but icing is ever a deadly foe
Ten years ago, the National Aviation Weather Program Council met in Washington, D.C., to develop ideas that could be turned into practical steps toward reducing the number of weather-related aircraft accidents. Regarding in-flight icing, the group—which included FAA, Department of Defense, NASA, Department of Commerce, Department of Agriculture and NTSB representatives—concluded that better observation systems were needed for detecting icing, and weather forecasts should present icing hazards in clear, easily understood formats.
There’s never been so much pre- and in-flight weather information available for pilots. If you can’t gather the raw data, forecasts and current airport observations by yourself, a briefer at a Flight Service Station (FSS) can do it for you. Unfortunately, some pilots continue to experience trouble applying the wealth of data and meteorological analyses to the realities of flight.