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General Aviation Accident & Pilot Safety

Ask any pilot, safety is top priority when it comes to flying. General aviation accident prevention is the focus of our NTSB Debriefer. Learn keys to being a safe pilot with the articles below.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Recognizing You’re In Trouble


Fatigue can cause pilots to fall behind



Recognizing You’re In TroubleOne of the most important skills for pilots to possess is the ability to recognize when they’re falling behind in an unfolding scenario. Frequently, pilots who fall too far behind experience accidents and are immortalized in NTSB accident reports.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Safety’s Ideal World


Unfortunately, we don’t always learn from example



Safety’s Ideal WorldIn an ideal world, once the probable cause of an accident is identified, there never will be an accident like it again.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Getting Ready For NextGen


The controllers are as crucial as the automation



Getting Ready For NextGenRecently, 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.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Muffler Inspection


It’s critical to ensuring a safe flight



Muffler InspectionIf you were to make a list of the most fun and glamorous aspects of flying, I’d bet that inspecting an aircraft’s muffler wouldn’t be on it.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sweet Dreams


Don’t take for granted the importance of a good night’s rest



Sweet DreamsIf the NTSB had its way, the FAA would be gauging whether or not you’re having sweet dreams and sleeping through the night cuddled up with your teddy bear.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Steve Fossett Accident


The NTSB’s findings on the famed aviator’s fatal crash



The Steve Fossett AccidentThe 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.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Blocked Pitot Tubes


When accessible, pitot tubes and static ports should be checked in every preflight



Blocked Pitot TubesThe 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.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Knowing When To Cancel


Don’t fly with a known equipment deficiency



Knowing When To CancelThe other evening, I got a call from a friend who operates a Piper Navajo for his business. He filled me in on what had happened with a flight from his home airport in the Northeast to Miami, Fla.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fixing Flutter Is Nothing New


Investigating violent oscillations that led to structural failure



Fixing Flutter Is Nothing NewIn 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.
Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Pilot Decides


Controllers offer assistance, but it’s the pilot’s responsibility to manage the flight



The Pilot DecidesEach 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.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Should You Reset A Circuit Breaker?


Revisiting and revising old ways of doing things



ntsbThe 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.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009

More Than Monitoring


Glass cockpits ease workload, but pilots shouldn’t forget to maintain their flying proficiency



ntsbWhile 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.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Survivable Ditchings


US Airways Flight 1549 is reminiscent of other successful ditchings



ntsbWithout 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.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Icing Awareness


The quantity and quality of information have improved, but icing is ever a deadly foe



ntsbTen 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.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Parachute Jump Operations


The risks go beyond just jumping out of an airplane



ntsb debrieferThis past September, the NTSB completed a special investigation on accidents involving aircraft used in parachute jumping.
Saturday, November 1, 2008

Weather Encounters


Take weather briefings seriously



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.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Glass-Cockpit Blackout


Dealing with electrical failure while trying to maintain aircraft control



The NTSB doesn’t just investigate accidents; it also routinely examines incidents to determine whether they expose an underlying safety problem, which, if not addressed, could set the stage for future accidents. Recently, it examined an incident involving an Airbus A320 operated by United Airlines. This led to the discovery that there had been at least 49 similar incidents in the United States and the United Kingdom. In response to its own investigation, the NTSB issued a safety recommendation, hoping to encourage FAA action.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Waking Up To Fatigue


Just because you’re awake, doesn’t mean you’re alert



The FAA is paying renewed attention to human fatigue in aviation, particularly in air transport operations. This issue has troubled the NTSB to such an extent that it has appeared on its annual “Most Wanted Transportation Safety Improvements” every year since the list was first published in 1990.
Monday, September 1, 2008

Turbocharger Trouble


The finer points of turbocharged engine operation



turbocharger troubleYou may already fly an aircraft with a turbocharged engine. If not, and you plan on expanding your aviation horizons, there may be a turbocharger in your future. A turbocharged engine can maintain sea level manifold pressure up to critical altitude. When equipped with an automatic density controller, nearly constant horsepower will be automatically produced up to the critical altitude.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Accelerated Stall


Stalling at higher speeds than a normal stall



NTSBThe accelerated stall usually surprises a pilot because it occurs at a higher airspeed than a normal stall (in which a wing loading of 1 G is maintained). Remember, a wing can be made to stall at any speed—all that has to happen is for the angle of attack to get high enough. As G-loading increases, so does stall speed. If a wing reaches its critical angle of attack when the wing loading is 2 G, twice normal, the stall will occur at a speed that’s proportional to the square root of the wing loading.