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The perils of fixating on mistakesThe perils of fixating on mistakes


AOPA Air Safety Foundation

A wise instructor once said, "You'll keep getting what you're getting if you keep doing what you're doing." In other words, if a pilot's technique is poor, the results of repeating a maneuver will not change until the technique improves.

On June 29, 2005, a Taylorcraft BC-12 was destroyed when it crashed during an attempted go-around at the private Marble Airport in Marble, Colorado. The pilot was killed in the accident.

The flight departed Taos, New Mexico, two hours and 20 minutes before the accident. Upon arriving at Marble, the pilot entered the traffic pattern in a westerly direction and made six attempts to land. On the sixth attempt, the airplane touched down midfield, the pilot added power, and the plane became airborne again. It then hit a road embankment at the end of the runway, continued in a steep climb, and hit several 60-foot-tall Aspen trees located 150 feet west of the runway's end.

The runway is a 4,600-foot grass strip with 4,000 usable feet, running east to west, and is at an elevation of 7,800 feet msl. It is surrounded on all sides by trees and rising terrain. The airport caretaker advises pilots to treat the airport as a one-way airstrip with landings to the east and departures to the west because of the obstacles and terrain.

Weather at the time of the accident included variable winds at 5 knots with visibility greater than 10 statute miles. The density altitude was calculated to be 10,063 feet.

The 76-year-old private pilot had logged 382 hours of flight time in the 25 years he had held his certificate. Nearly 25 percent of this time was flown in the accident airplane. He completed a flight review four months before the accident, but there was no record of the pilot doing any flying between the review and the accident.

The NTSB determined the cause of this accident was the pilot's improper decision to perform a go-around and failure to maintain clearance from terrain and obstacles.

Multiple failed maneuvers, such as this pilot's landing attempts, can lead to frustration and resignation. In fact, many flight schools limit the number of consecutive times a student can practice a maneuver during training flights. It's possible that this pilot became so focused on his mistakes that he wasn't able to land safely.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, break off the maneuver, climb to a safe altitude, and then take a moment to compose yourself. Sometimes this is all it takes to then perform the maneuver as you were trained.

To learn some great tips about operating in high-density-altitude areas, such as this one, take the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's Mountain Flying online course.

Accident reports can be found in ASF's accident database.

Return to the ePilot accident report main page.