AOPA Pilot Magazine
Ounce of Prevention
No one wants to become a statistic. Though the overall accident rate for general aviation has leveled off recently, as we integrate new technologies into the cockpit and improve our training we should be increasing the margin of safety, not hitting a plateau. While we generally accept a certain level of risk in flying as we do in our ground-bound lives, any accident, when it happens to you, is one too many. Frustratingly, the most common accident causes are the same year after year.
In this 12-part, yearlong series on accident prevention strategies, we'll explore the main causes of accidents and specific ways you can train to avoid becoming involved in each one. From VFR into instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) to landing accidents, there are common threads to every pilot-induced scenario that you can bypass with a little foresight and preemptive action�an ounce of prevention. You can bring these tips along on your next local flight or session with a CFI and take that extra step toward safety. � The Editors
December, Preventive Medicine, Safety strategies for 2002, by Julie K. Boatman
Over the past year, we've taken a detailed look at the causes of aircraft accidents and determined what you can do to reduce your risk of being involved in one. Now we'd like to provide a plan to help you incorporate these practices into your flying schedule with some key strategies.
November, Preflight Yourself, Then Your Airplane, Watch out for the invisible dangers, by Alton K. Marsh
Let's talk about the less overt hazards to your safety. Previously in this series we have talked about handling the more obvious ones such as running out of fuel, poor takeoff technique, poor planning, engine failure, and midair collisions. Now we're going to talk about safety threats that are less obvious and are more often ignored.
October, Shades of Gray, VFR-into-IMC's slippery slope, by Julie K. Boatman
We had a window. After staging a successful photo mission from the Manitowoc (Wisconsin) Airport over the weekend, we needed to reposition a Beech A36 Bonanza to another field about 40 nm away. A serious thunderstorm was grumbling toward central Wisconsin; the briefer estimated one and one-half hours before it would masticate the skies over our intended destination.
September, Managing Mechanical Maladies, Don't let Malfunction Junction become a waypoint on your flight plan, by Steven W. Ells
Mechanical failures are a lot like a hole in one in the game of golf � people know they exist, but few have personally experienced one. Unlike a hole in one, however, when a mechanical malfunction does occur, it's usually preceded by warning signs telling the pilot to beware.
August, Suddenly Single, Beyond "dead foot, dead engine," by Thomas A. Horne
From our first days as student pilots of small single-engine trainers we yearn to fly twins. The allure of multiengine flying is compelling, what with the promise of extra power, more speed, better climb rates, systems redundancies, and � well, let's face it, ramp and sex appeal. But while twin-engine flying definitely has its advantages, it has a dark side, too. It demands extra care on the pilot's part, and learning a whole new set of planning and procedural skills. Failure to understand and practice them can be fatal.
July, Flying a No-Hitter Game, Keep your head on a swivel, by Alton K. Marsh
When you scan for other traffic, do you find yourself most often looking straight ahead with occasional glances to the left and right? If so, you're guarding against only 5 percent of the most common midair collision scenarios. Eighty-two percent occur from the rear, according to information provided by the AOPA Air Safety Foundation (ASF).
June, Stay Focused, Plan the takeoff � and take off according to the plan, by Julie K. Boatman
My copilot for the flight, Steve O'Neill, set the flaps for takeoff, and I taxied the Cessna 206 Turbo Stationair into position on the runway. "Climbout at VY [best rate of climb] is 89 knots," he called, reading from the checklist. We were flying the Stationair down to Tulsa with the aft door removed, after the previous days' photo mission. Anxious to see what kind of climb rate that speed would produce, I pushed the throttle forward, and we charged down the pavement into the air. The deck angle launched a collective "Yee-haw!" from the front row � until a whoosh of blue tissue paper flapped its way from behind the seats into the windscreen. "I got it," said O'Neill, reaching for the scrap of paper. "You fly." The once carefully-wrapped baseball cap I'd secured for my grandpa instantly drove home a critical point about takeoffs: While approach and landing arguably take the most skill, takeoffs require focus.
May, Quick and Legal Flight Planning, Ways to avoid common pitfalls, by Alton K. Marsh
How extensive is your flight planning? It needs to be good enough to meet FAA standards and yet practical enough to be completed on the same day that you want to fly. The FAA says the pilot shall "become familiar with all available information concerning the flight" (FAR 91.103). You must be all knowing.
April, A Momentary Lapse of Reason, Low-level maneuvering extracts its toll, by Julie K. Boatman
Ah, the things we'll do when we're young and silly and low-time CFIs in a Cessna 172, egging each other on. As anyone acquainted with the topography of eastern Colorado and Wyoming can attest, you can fly for miles seeing nothing but scrub brush and broken fence rows. I admit it, we probably flew lower than we should have that bleak spring day, justifying our minimal altitude at the time with the conviction we could make a safe emergency landing should the need arise. And we did maintain at least 500 feet lateral separation from the cows we encountered.
March, Approaching Safely, "Just a little bit lower...," by Alton K. Marsh
Lack of aeronautical information was killing too many pilots in 1930 and 1931, prompting Elrey B. Jeppesen to start his famous black book. He filled it with intelligence information on every pilot's enemies � terrain, smokestacks, water towers, and other obstacles. He sold copies for $10, and the sales became the start of Jeppesen, now a Boeing company.
February, The Quest for the Golden Landing, An impossible dream? by Alton K. Marsh
Greek mythology includes the tale of Jason and the Golden Fleece. Jason, a young man, at the suggestion of his uncle searched relentlessly for the Golden Fleece that was in a land far away and guarded by a dragon that never slept. His uncle was rooting for the dragon.
January, Into the Heart of Darkness, Flying the night sky without fear, by Julie K. Boatman
Some accident factors appear to go with certain times of the year. Though worries of winter ice abound when temperatures fall, more pilots find themselves flying under darkened skies as the days grow shorter. Night poses particular hazards that aren't a factor during the day, and it compounds other risks found around the clock.