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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.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Knowing The NOTAMs

Don’t underestimate their importance

ntsbAccident investigators sometimes discover that pilots don’t have information contained in NOTAMs relevant to their flights. On rare occasions, even though a pilot asked for NOTAM information in a preflight briefing, the briefer accidentally omitted an item. More often, however, pilots don’t bother doing the research.
Friday, February 1, 2008

What If?

Asking the eternal, unanswerable question

ntsbIn every accident, there’s a chain of events or conditions leading to the outcome. Break one of the links in the chain, and the accident can be avoided, at least in theory. The individual links leading to the crash of Comair flight 5191 at Lexington, Ky., on August 27, 2006, aren’t big ones like an engine failing or running out of fuel. The NTSB’s final report indicates plenty of opportunities to change the course of events. There’s almost a compulsion to ask over and over again, “what if?”
Saturday, December 1, 2007

Catastrophic Structural Failure

Focusing on maintenance programs

The overwhelming majority of airplanes have the potential to keep flying until it’s no longer economically viable to keep them in the air, provided that they’re operated within established parameters, receive regular inspections to detect problems and undergo proper preventive maintenance. When there’s a catastrophic structural failure, such as a wing falling off, it understandably attracts attention from the industry, investigators and regulators.
Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Overstressing The Airframe

Exercise good preflight and in-flight judgment to keep your airplane intact

Some pilots may believe that an instrument rating and a fair amount of flight time are good insurance against getting into a situation that results in losing aircraft control or exceeding an aircraft’s design stress limits. However, without a healthy amount of good preflight and in-flight judgment, along with recurrent training that includes partial panel work and unusual attitude recovery, those two things can set the stage for getting into trouble.

Saturday, October 1, 2005

The Touchdown Set-Up

Be prepared for any last-minute corrections when landing

One of the really great things about most light general aviation airplanes is that they generally are highly responsive to control and power inputs, and touchdown speeds are comparatively low, making it possible to turn a sloppy approach into a relatively benign landing through some last-minute maneuvering.
Thursday, September 1, 2005

Weather-Avoidance Assistance

You can’t always rely on air traffic control for climate briefings

While the primary duty of controllers is to separate and direct traffic, they also have a duty to help pilots avoid weather hazards. The FAA’s handbook for controllers requires them to issue pertinent information on observed and reported weather, provide radar navigation guidance and/or approve deviations around weather when requested, define where significant weather is located in relation to an aircraft, issue the level of echo intensity and help pilots figure out the best alternative routes and altitudes to avoid weather.
Monday, August 1, 2005

Turbulent Times

Grappling with gusting winds during landings

A few weeks ago, New York was experiencing an extended period of rainy weather, accompanied by what seemed like constant low overcasts, reduced visibility and winds that were designed to test the quality of airplane tiedown ropes. I was really looking forward to the break in the weather that had been forecast for the coming weekend.
Friday, July 1, 2005

Safety In Numbers

The latest NTSB statistics suggest a decrease in general aviation accidents

This past March, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released preliminary accident statistics for 2004. The numbers show a welcome overall safety trend for general aviation (GA), with total accidents going down from 1,741 in 2003 to 1,614 in 2004. The accident rate decreased from 6.77 per 100,000 flight hours in 2003 to 6.22 in 2004. That’s a drop of more than 8%.
Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Fill ’Er Up

Make fuel management a priority

Running out of fuel and crashing is something you might expect from an inexperienced private pilot, but not from a crew of professional pilots or even experienced pilots. Yet that was exactly the case when it came to an accident that occurred on April 8, 2003. It involved a Dassault DA-20C Fan Jet Falcon that was being vectored by ATC in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) for another approach.
Sunday, May 1, 2005

A Needle In A Haystack

Current ELT systems can make life difficult for search and rescue

Sometime in 2009, the COSPAS-SARSAT satellite system will no longer be receiving distress signals on today’s common distress frequencies, 121.5 MHz and 243.0 MHz. Instead, the satellites will monitor only 406 MHz, a frequency that’s being phased in for civilian use.
Monday, November 1, 2004

Learning From A Heavy-Iron Accident

Lessons gleaned from the big birds can teach us how to become safer pilots

A Boeing 727 is different from the airplanes that most of us fly. Nevertheless, there are some things that we can learn from the NTSB’s recently completed report on an accident involving a FedEx cargo 727, which was flown into trees and terrain during the pre-dawn hours of July 26, 2002.
Friday, October 1, 2004

The Silent Killer

The NTSB’s latest safety recommendation targets the dangers of carbon monoxide leaks caused by defective exhaust systems

Against the background of an aging fleet of general-aviation, piston-powered airplanes, the NTSB suggested that it’s time for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to take a closer look at engine mufflers and do more to eliminate potential hazards posed by mufflers that have deteriorated.
Wednesday, September 1, 2004

A Deadly Sense of Euphoria

Understanding the signs of hypoxia may just get you out of trouble

One of the subjects that is frequently emphasized in the materials that are published by the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Aeromedical Education Division is hypoxia, which is more commonly referred to as “oxygen starvation.” The FAA points out that hypoxia is insidious in its onset. It sneaks up on you, and you lose the ability to sense that something is going wrong.
Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Devastating Details

Even minor maintenance mistakes can be fatal

One consequence of the nation’s economic downturn and the accompanying slump in general aviation was that some maintenance shops were forced to consolidate or close down, and many mechanics had to consider alternative careers. The result for airplane owners was the increased difficulty in obtaining high-quality maintenance services at a reasonable cost.
Saturday, May 1, 2004

Known And Unknown Deficiencies

It’s both the pilot’s and mechanic’s responsibility to find faulty equipment

While the FAA makes the pilot responsible for determining whether or not an aircraft that he or she is about to fly is airworthy, the pilot must rely to a great extent on what others have determined about the airplane. It’s relatively easy for a pilot to check paperwork to determine whether or not an aircraft has undergone required inspections, to check that compliance with airworthiness directives is current and to ensure that required documents are on board.
Thursday, April 1, 2004

The Wellstone Accident

Even the bigger birds can stall and fall

The NTSB has released its final report on the October 25, 2002, accident in which U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota and seven others were killed at Eveleth, Minn. The twin-engine turboprop King Air A100 didn’t have a cockpit voice recorder, so there was no possibility of investigators learning what the pilot and copilot might have said to each other about the way things were progressing during the VOR approach to Eveleth. Investigators had to rely on other things to figure out what caused the airplane to experience an aerodynamic stall at a critically low altitude. In reconstructing the accident scenario, investigators used radar data, ATC audiotapes, aircraft performance numbers, interviews and a large body of experience derived from investigating other accidents.
Monday, March 1, 2004

Learning From Mistakes

The ASRS collects pilots’ admitted blunders so that others can gain knowledge from them

One of the best things that the FAA ever did to promote aviation safety was to provide immunity from FAR violations prosecution for pilots who voluntarily report problems and incidents to NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) before the FAA gets wind of what went on. During most months, NASA’s ASRS receives about 2,000 to 3,000 reports from pilots, controllers and mechanics. Quite a bit of the information works its way into studies of various safety issues.
Sunday, February 1, 2004

Gone With The Wind

Crosswinds can be deadly, even for the most experienced pilot

With apologies to Margaret Mitchell, most pilots would welcome the opportunity to be “gone with the wind” and let Mother Nature help keep a lid on upwardly creeping fuel costs. Just a few days ago, a friend of mine found that favorable winds aloft coupled with a direct-to-destination IFR routing cut more than a half-hour off the usual trip home to New York after a business meeting in Ohio. Even better, there was an absence of shear and turbulence, making for a smooth, quick ride. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. From time to time, National Transportation Safety Board investigators have to look at situations in which the capabilities of the pilot and/or the aircraft were exceeded by wind conditions.
Thursday, January 1, 2004

Take A Good Look

Step back during the preflight and make sure the controls are in line

Back when I was a student pilot, I developed a habit during the preflight inspection of stepping back and pausing to get an overall visual impression of the control surfaces on the airplane. It started after I had noticed that one of the ailerons on a Cherokee I was about to take out for a solo flight didn’t look quite right. From a distance, it was easy to see that while the aileron on one side was in alignment, the other aileron was sagging significantly.
Wednesday, November 30, -0001

Getting The Weather Straight

Pilots may not be warned of adverse weather conditions, even when others are

Getting The Weather StraightThe NTSB says that the National Weather Service and the FAA need to do a better job of getting important weather information to pilots.