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Playing flight instructor has its perilsPlaying flight instructor has its perils


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AOPA Air Safety Foundation

Playing flight instructor has its perils

Helping a student pilot through flight training by taking them flying can be a rewarding experience, but it's important for pilots to remember that playing flight instructor without the proper certificate can be dangerous.

On August 21, 2002, a student pilot was killed and his private pilot friend was seriously injured during a landing accident at Dart Airport in Mayville, New York. The planned flight was a short trip (about 22 nautical miles) from Dart Airport to South Dayton for ice cream. The student pilot owned the Piper Tri-Pacer they were flying, and had received about 24 hours of flight instruction.

After leaving South Dayton, they flew over the student's house, then returned to Mayville with the student pilot flying the majority of the flight. The student entered the traffic pattern for Runway 13, and his first approach was "way too high," resulting in a go-around. On the student's second attempt, they "seemed right on the glide slope" when the plane "suddenly dropped down." The private pilot had attempted to reach for the controls and apply power, but it was too late. The airplane hit the top of a 40-foot utility pole and power lines 250 feet from the approach end of the runway. The power lines were marked with orange ball-shaped wire markers for better visibility.

The student pilot began flying the Tri-Pacer about five months before the accident. According to his flight instructor, he was a good pilot, however had not been signed off for solo flight because of his performance during landings. She said that the student would get "very tense and really nervous" during landings.

The private pilot had about 600 hours total time, 450 of which was in the Tri-Pacer.

The NTSB determined the cause of this accident was the student pilot's failure to maintain adequate altitude during the landing approach and the private pilot's inadequate supervision.

Taking students flying is a great way to introduce them to all that flying has to offer. It can show them what they will be able to do once they pass their private pilot checkrides, and serve as motivation to complete their training. However, it's important to remember that you—the pilot—are ultimately responsible for the safety of the flight. Students will make mistakes—that's part of the learning process. Flight instructors spend a lot of time learning to recognize those mistakes and (more importantly) how to correct them safely. It's best to leave the teaching to the pros.

To learn more about what types of accidents are common during flight instruction, read the AOPA Air Safety Institute's Special Report, Flight Instruction Safety. You can also search the institute's Accident Database for more accident summaries.

Posted Thursday, August 24, 2006 4:39:45 PM