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Training Tip: A stubborn statisticTraining Tip: A stubborn statistic

Here’s a ground school assignment that is too easy, regrettably: Go to an online accident database and download a report of an accident that occurred during landing or takeoff, and was attributed to pilot action or inaction.

Photo by Mike Fizer.

Even if you filter your search to include only training mishaps, it won’t take long to satisfy the assignment.

The accident you find may have been assigned a probable cause like this: “The student pilot's failure to maintain pitch control during the landing flare in gusty crosswind conditions, which resulted in a hard landing/abnormal runway contact, a partial nose wheel collapse and substantial damage to the firewall.”

Or this: “The student pilot's improper decision to land long and maintain excessive speed during the landing roll. Contributing to the accident was the student pilot's decision to maintain full flaps and aft yoke inputs at a higher speed, reducing his ability to stop the airplane on the runway.”

Or this: “The pilot's failure to maintain pitch control during the landing flare, which resulted in a hard landing and substantial damage to the firewall.”

As the recently released AOPA Air Safety Institute's 26th Joseph T. Nall Report observed in analyzing the most complete recent annual accident data, “Once again, the overwhelming cause of accidents is pilot error, which has persistently caused 75% of accidents for decades. That stubborn statistic should motivate our efforts. It means that if we influence pilots to modify their behavior we can drive further reductions in the number of accidents, the overall accident rate, and the number of fatalities.”

The errors noted in many accident reports hold no mysteries about lapses in technique. In many cases then, the needed behavior modification comes from getting more practice—perhaps hours and hours more.

It may help to modify flight instructor behavior to ensure CFIs are certain a student pilot’s satisfactory pre-solo skills demonstrations come not from rote or good fortune, but from real understanding of underlying concepts.

A video some flight instructors see during refresher training contains an interview with an airline captain involved in her company’s training program. She recites the truism, paraphrased here, that there are pilots who train until they get it right, and pilots who train “until they don’t get it wrong.”

Which of those approaches to training do you think makes a pilot more capable of helping knock down that stubborn accident statistic?

Weigh in on this important question at

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Flight Training, Flight Instructor, Student
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