Probable Cause #42: Racing Weather
This article originally appeared in Aviation Safety, August 2005.Pilots are a curious bunch. Arguably the result of concentrated, lengthy training in everything from reading and understanding aviation regulations, manipulating an aircraft's controls, and obtaining and understanding weather reports and forecasts, we still find ways to bend sheet metal and injure people. Yes, every now and then, some pilot or another finds a new and inventive way to file an accident report but, most of the time, the latest accident is simply a variation on a theme. Amazingly, and despite the fact that our training proves we are capable of learning something new and different, it seems the granting of a pilot certificate is often interpreted as a license to forget what we've learned and invent a new set of rules. For example, even though a great deal of our training is spent learning about weather, pilots still manage to have weather-related accidents. In its 2004 report on general aviation accidents and trends, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation noted, "The top trouble spots remain: too many takeoff and landing accidents due to poor skill, and too many fatal maneuvering flight accidents due to lack of either skill or judgment. Weather accidents, particularly pilots attempting to maintain VFR into instrument meteorological conditions, still occupy a significant portion of the fatalities. Time after time, post-accident analysis shows that had the pilot diverted to an alternate or changed course even a few minutes earlier, it would have made a huge difference."