Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Light-Sport Chronicles: CSI Insurance: Excogitations On LSA Crashes, Part 1

What do three years of a top LSA insurer’s data tell us about sport flight accidents?

lscTooling around the Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo (check out my blog, Light-Sport Hangar Flyin’), I ran into Mike Adams, vice president of underwriting for Avemco Insurance Company ( Adams was on scene to present what Avemco has learned, based on three years of data, from S-LSA accidents.
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“One LSA instructor I know,” said Adams, “claims it’s easier to train someone to be a sport pilot who doesn’t have any flight experience, rather than to transition experienced GA pilots. She believes veteran pilots have prejudices about how an airplane should fly, and the motor skills they’ve learned to apply to certain situations in those types of aircraft don’t always work in an LSA.”

An interesting side note: Europe hasn’t experienced the same accident ratio between GA and LSA flight. “I think that’s because a majority of their pilots have lots of microlight flying experience. We believe pilots who go from lighter to heavier aircraft have easier transitions than the other way around.”

Adams takes a page from his personal experience regarding crosswind landings. “If the manual says your airplane can handle up to 18 knots of crosswind, I always decrease that. My skills aren’t usually going to be up to the maximum capability of the aircraft. I’d guess that’s true for most pilots.”

Another accident gremlin turns out to be the need for good rudder work. Many GA airplanes can be flown quite adequately with your flippers flat on the floor. Not so with LSA. They can bite you if you don’t hone your rudder skills, and I don’t mean just taildraggers. Many tricycle LSA require healthy rudder input in takeoff and landing mode, especially during turbulent and crosswind conditions. I’ve flown more than one tri-gear LSA that wants as much, or more, rudder in flight than a Cub or a Kitfox, all the way down to the ground.

Mike Adams is trying to teach us this: We need to consider LSA as different aircraft. They will behave, especially in “textured” air, more like ultralights than fully loaded Bonanzas.

Said Adams, “To counter the transition training problem, we told dealers and manufacturers, ‘We want longer checkout flights: five hours minimum. And we want your instructors to sign off the pilot after a flight review.’ We had to make sure someone was verifying that the new pilot could actually fly the airplane safely. That’s what we’d been missing.”

Avemco’s new requirements became policy at the end of 2007.


[Next month, we’ll wrap up our insider’s look at LSA flight safety with Avemco’s Mike Adams.]

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