Plane & Pilot
Thursday, June 6, 2013

Safety Alerts

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

The NTSB suggests that pilots need to be honest with themselves about skill limitations, no matter how many ratings they hold and hours they have logged. Pilots should not allow external pressures such as the desire to save time or money, or not disappointing passengers, to influence decisions. The Safety Board reminds pilots that even visual weather conditions can be challenging at night. "Remote areas with limited ground lighting provide limited visual reference cues for pilots, which can be disorienting or render rising terrain visually imperceptible.

For night VFR flights, use topographic references to familiarize yourself with surrounding terrain. Consider following instrument procedures if you are instrument rated or avoiding areas with limited ground lighting (such as remote or mountainous areas) if you are not," the Safety Alert says.

In the fifth Safety Alert, "Pilots: Manage Risks to Ensure Safety," the NTSB notes that effective risk management involves developing good decision-making practices, knowing how to use all resources available to you, recognizing and coping with stress and fatigue, and being honest with yourself about your skills, proficiency and attitudes. The Safety Alert points out that accidents occur when several small risks aren't identified or managed and become a dangerous situation.

The Safety Alert highlights an accident at Crystal Lake, Ill., in which all four people on a Cirrus SR20 were killed. The private pilot, who didn't hold an instrument rating and had logged only 207 hours, was conducting the flight from Marion, Ind., to DuPage Airport (DPA), West Chicago, Ill.. At 9:58 a.m., the pilot contacted DPA tower. The airplane was approximately two miles south of the airport at that time. The controller advised the pilot that the airport was IFR. About 30 seconds later, the pilot radioed that he had inadvertently flown over the airport. The controller then cleared the pilot to reverse course and land at DPA. At 10:02, the pilot informed the controller that he no longer had the airport in sight. The controller provided a suggested heading to DPA.

At 10:04, the pilot asked if there was another airport with better visibility because he did not "want to get in there and get stuck all day." The controller noted that Chicago Executive Airport (PWK) about 20 miles northeast was reporting VFR. The controller asked if the pilot wanted to be transferred to Chicago Approach for help getting to PWK. The pilot replied, "I'm still trying to decide if I want to try to land at DuPage or not . . . would you think that's a good idea or not." When the controller asked the pilot if he was IFR qualified, the pilot replied that he was in "FR training and I've let this get around me."

The pilot was subsequently handed off to Chicago Approach and, after starting out for PWK, decided he didn't want to go there. He told the controller that he didn't "...want to mess with the weather...I'm gonna get out...and I don't want to get stuck in here." The controller transmitted, "frequency change is approved," and the pilot acknowledged. The airplane continued maneuvering at low altitude, about 1,800 feet MSL, until it entered a steepening right turn. A witness saw the airplane descending in a 70-degree nose-down attitude.

Peter Katz is editor and publisher of NTSB Reporter, an independent monthly update on aircraft accident investigations and other news concerning the National Transportation Safety Board. To subscribe, write to: NTSB Reporter, Subscription Dept., P.O. Box 831, White Plains, N.Y. 10602-0831.


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