November 11, 2009

Crossfield accident calls for thunderstorm education

In the wake of the NTSB's release of the factual report on the April 19, 2006, accident that killed famed aviator Scott Crossfield, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation is reminding pilots to be cautious when flying in the vicinity of convective weather.

"Mr. Crossfield taught us a valuable lesson, unfortunately with a tragic outcome," said Bruce Landsberg, executive director of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. "Weather does not respect any type of certificate or experience level."

Crossfield's Cessna 210 broke apart when he flew through a severe thunderstorm. The NTSB's report shows that air traffic controllers did not provide Crossfield with any warning about the weather.

In 2004, nearly 25 percent of fatal weather-related accidents involved thunderstorms, a much higher percentage than usual. Each of those pilots was in contact with ATC but still flew into severe conditions. These accidents highlight the importance of pilots and controllers sharing an understanding of what thunderstorm avoidance services are, or are not, being provided. This prompted the foundation to produce its Weather Wise: Thunderstorms and ATC program, which was ironically made available on the Web last year about a month before the Crossfield accident.

The course is free to all pilots and includes valuable information such as what weather services are available from ATC; how to ask the right questions of controllers to get the information you need; and radar capabilities of ATC facilities.

"Most ATC centers and tracons have the ability to detect precipitation, and pilots flying in the area of thunderstorms would be wise to discuss what the controller sees and ask for suggestions for avoidance," said Landsberg.

In March of this year, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, in partnership with the FAA, mailed the program on CD to more than 184,000 instrument-rated pilots.

If you have not yet viewed the course, do so before your next flight. Summer thunderstorm season is upon us.

July 26, 2007