Bush Pilot Wannabes Push Crash Stats?

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Idaho officials are wondering what to do about an alarming increasing in air crashes, especially fatal ones. In 2003, there have been 50 crashes, eleven of them fatal, and 21 people have died. Compared to the averages over the previous 11 years, that works out to 38 percent more accidents, 57 percent more fatal crashes and 61 percent more fatalities. Government agencies like the NTSB and FAA could offer no explanation for the sharp increase (nor did they seem particularly concerned about it) but a veteran Idaho pilot thinks adventuresome pilots, long on finances but lean on experience, are pushing the numbers up. Gene Mussler said the state's picturesque back-country landing strips are a magnet to moneyed private pilots who lack the experience to fly in the tricky conditions in the mountains. "They're getting out into the mountains and the airstrips that are tricky and dangerous -- and they crash," said Mussler. Bob Martin, of the state's aeronautic division, couldn't agree more. "It's pilot error. We did an analysis," he said. "Guys fly up canyons and find out that they can't fly out, they end up on the side of a hill." Martin said the FAA should free up more money for training and safety programs.