Plane & Pilot
Thursday, June 6, 2013

Safety Alerts

The NTSB has highlighted what it sees as five general aviation trouble areas

Rather than just hand-wringing at the inability of general aviation to bring its accident rates in line with those of the scheduled airlines, the NTSB is trying to cajole and educate pilots and others who might have some influence. The Safety Board is concerned that what had previously been an improving GA safety trend has become stagnant. In 2011, the scheduled airlines operating under Part 121 had 28 total accidents ranging from turbulence encounters to on-ground bumping, resulting in zero fatalities and an accident rate per 100,000 flight hours of 0.17. General aviation, on the other hand, had 1,466 accidents in 2011, with 263 involving fatalities. There were 444 deaths in general aviation accidents. The 2011 accident rate for GA was 6.51 with 1.17 fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours. Although there have been ups and downs, that's essentially unchanged from 1999 when there were 6.50 total and 1.16 fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours.

The Safety Board targeted five areas that come up frequently in accident investigations as subjects for five Safety Alerts and a series of videos featuring regional air safety investigators sharing their experiences and observations, while providing advice on how pilots and mechanics can avoid mistakes.

The first Safety Alert is titled, "Is Your Aircraft Talking to You? Listen!" It notes that more accidents involving powerplant system or component failure could be avoided if pilots were better attuned to indications of growing mechanical difficulty and more responsive to small issues so they don't become in-flight emergencies ending in accidents. It cites a Beech 36 engine which, it suggests, was trying to tell the pilot all wasn't well prior to the accident.

The accident occurred shortly before 4 a.m., while the pilot was flying the RNAV/GPS approach for runway 24 at Bowman Field Airport, Louisville, Ky. The airplane had taken off from Chicago's Midway Airport. The commercial pilot, who had 2,300 hours and was the only person on board, was killed. Weather was reported as six miles in mist with an 800-foot overcast and wind from 330 degrees at three knots. The pilot reported an emergency due to "engine failure." The airplane went down in an open field in a golfing community.

A mechanic at Bowman Field told an investigator that he saw the airplane on the field, and he had seen it fly on several occasions, and knew the engine had been recently overhauled. Several weeks before the accident, the mechanic talked to the pilot when the pilot was conducting a ground run. The pilot said that he was having an oil pressure problem and asked the mechanic about oil pressure adjustments. The mechanic explained the system to the pilot and advised him to have the problem checked out.

A worker at an FBO at Midway said the airplane landed there just before midnight and the pilot ordered fuel. After taxiing out for departure, the plane came back to the FBO and the pilot said there was a problem. The airplane was put into a hangar and the pilot contacted a maintenance facility on the airport. The maintenance facility was unable to work on the airplane until morning, so the pilot had the airplane pulled out of the hangar and managed to start the engine after several attempts. The airplane departed Midway at about 2:20 a.m.


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