Probable Cause #49: Distraction
This article originally appeared in IFR Refresher, Feb. 2007.Every one of us remembers the old phrase, "Fly the airplane first." The reference is to our first job as pilots, which is to maintain safety of flight and/or operation any time we are sitting in the left seat and the engine is turning. It means that no matter what happens, we continue to fly the airplane and not allow it to come into harm's way. This becomes even more important when distraction and confusion sets in. That's what happened to the pilot of a Cirrus SR20 while flying an instrument approach into the Reid-Hillview Airport (KRHV) near San Jose, Calif. Because of less-than-stellar work by ATC, he allowed himself to become distracted and lost sight of the "big" picture, resulting in a fatal accident. The situation was probably exacerbated by the fact that the pilot didn't have a great deal of flying time and had just gotten his instrument rating. As with most GA accidents, the lack of a cockpit voice recorder makes it almost impossible to deduce with absolute certainty what went on in the cockpit of this SR20. But as you begin to read about the chain of events that led to the crash, it's not too difficult to draw a plausible picture of what the pilot was facing and how the events ultimately unfolded.