The Air Safety Institute got a call from a tower controller at a particularly busy Class D field recently. He’d seen our Communications Breakdown Accident Case Study and thought it would be a valuable resource for his facility’s recurrent training program. The 13-minute film details the tragic consequences of a pilot’s misunderstanding of ambiguous instructions given by a controller trying to vector him into the flow of a crowded traffic pattern.
It’s gratifying to know that other aviation professionals value our work enough to use it in their own, especially since this wasn’t the first time. We get several requests a year for copies of case studies or Real Pilot Stories for airing in locations (mostly hangars) without reliable Internet access. In addition to ATC facilities, we’ve been honored to provide material to Civil Air Patrol squadrons, university aviation programs, and a Marine Corps air station. And of course most users can take direct advantage of our website without outside assistance. On a recent visit to the Part 141 school that one of our staff considers his alma mater, the chief flight instructor went out of his way to show off the wall of framed completion certificates from every online course and safety quiz we’ve published over the past decade. His instructors and their students are encouraged to use every offering on the site. After all, it’s good stuff, and it’s free.
That kind of logic is hard to argue with. AOPA provides a lot of services to all its members, and offers further benefits such as legal and medical consultations at additional cost—but its standing as a research and public education entity requires the Air Safety Institute to give away its products to anyone who wants them. Anyone. Period. You don’t have to be a donor, a flight instructor, or even an AOPA member to read every publication, take every course, and view every Pilot Safety Announcement that takes your fancy. You don’t even need a student pilot certificate—which means that pre-solo students don’t have to wait to get a jump on the subjects they find fascinating (GPS), frightening (weather), or merely baffling (aerodynamics, anyone, or maybe airspace classifications?).
If your school doesn’t encourage students and instructors alike to make the most of this, you’re leaving money on the table. We’ve done the work to research some of the trickiest topics in general aviation and explain them in ways that are both practical and intuitive. We’ve done in-depth interviews with pilots who escaped tight situations and recreated the events that almost brought them to grief. We’ve even tried the Madison Avenue approach to driving home points that can be made in a minute or less.
Some of it’s pitched to new pilots and students, but there’s also material sophisticated enough to benefit high-timers. The chances are that CFIs and their students will all find something to help make them better, safer, more thoughtful aviators. Here’s a partial inventory:
Online courses: Thirty-six of them so far, spanning a range of topics from aerodynamics to weather. Some are as specialized as mountain flying, others as general as aeronautical decision making. Most take about half an hour.
Safety videos: Eighteen as of this writing, with more added frequently. In addition to pointers on technique, as in the “Runway Safety” and “Takeoffs and Landings” series,they include “No Greater Burden,” one pilot’s look back at the accident that claimed his son’s life.
Accident Case Studies: Detailed reconstructions of nine especially instructive accidents that illuminate some of the most familiar— and catastrophic—pilot errors: VFR into IMC, icing encounters, and thunderstorm penetration. Most run 15 to 30 minutes.
Real Pilot Stories: Twenty-one tales of accidents that almost happened, told by the pilots who managed to escape them. Most run less than five minutes. Ride along through catastrophic engine failures, ditchings, a bird strike, a child opening a cabin door at 10,000 feet, and the ever-popular “Snake on a Plane.”
Ask ATC: In live interviews, controllers answer fifteen of the questions you’ve always wanted to ask.
Pilot Safety Announcements: Distractions, heroism, alphabet rhymes, and the latest in ecologically friendly propulsion systems—all in one minute or less.
And that’s barely getting started. Our Safety Briefs and Safety Advisors, previously distributed in print, are joining the digital age. Flight instructors can browse the archives of our quarterly CFI-to-CFI newsletter, and then sign up for future issues. The Nall Report is the national standard for large-scale analysis of general aviation accidents, but if you prefer spotting your own patterns, try exploring interactive maps of five major categories of fixed-wing accidents or search the Air Safety Institute database of more than 60,000 GA accidents dating back more than thirty years.
This stuff is good enough for the Civil Air Patrol, ATC, and the United States Marine Corps, so odds are it’ll be useful to you, too. Oh, and did we mention that it’s free?