Top Letters And Comments, October 21, 2022

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Is Accident Reporting Making Us All Crazy?

I learned to fly before the turn of the century. In my first year as a private pilot I subscribed to the Aviation Safety newsletter, it arrived every month and was pre-punched with holes to place in a three ring binder. Two years later I traded my Aviation Safety subscription for IFR Magazine, another excellent publication. I read them religiously, I learned a great deal from them. In fact, I shared them with my young bride who appreciated the learnings, and developed a set of expectations for me to live and fly by.

One time, on a cross country from Hamilton, OH to Land-Between-The-Lakes, KY she woke up mid flight to find me reading a copy of AOPA Pilot magazine. She admonished me, saying I should be paying closer attention to monitoring my engine instruments, identifying potential landing sites and estimating glide distances from the chart. Because those were things you did to increase your chances of survival from an engine failure.

Learning from accidents is learning from mistakes, and we know if one didn’t make any mistakes, look one cannot expand their body of knowledge. I share the occasional accident report with my students to demonstrate the value of some of the training lessons I provide. I’m happy to say my students consume accident reports on a healthy basis because they realize the value and appreciate the reminder that while flying has its risks, they can be mitigated. You can ask my last Private Pilot student. Two months after passing his checkride he executed sound ADM and landed his airplane with his bride of 40 years onboard, in a soybean field after the engine started to vibrate violently. He did so without a scratch to persons or machine.

Keep the stories coming Paul. You know there’s some pilot out there who is going to be pressured to fly his family home in GA plane during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and might not be successful in 1000 foot ceilings with temps in the mid 30s. But if God forbid, that accident does happen, it might prevent a dozen similar ones from happening in the future.

Mario A.

It seems overlooked that there is a secondary audience for some of this reporting. I used to leave copies of AOPA Pilot laying around until I read them. One day, my wife of that time decided she should know something about aviation since she sat in the right seat. Well, after reading only two or three of the “Never Again” columns, she was firmly convinced that I was endangering everyone involved by flying. She never really changed her view on that. We’re divorced now, and I still feel that we lost out on a lot of good trips (I had an Aerostar) due to a fear she didn’t have before reading a few columns. BTW, I stopped reading “Never Again”, as too many involved what I viewed as rookie mistakes or outright negligence.

Lynn J.

There is a dichotomy between actual risk and perceived risk. If someone believes they can control the risk, the risk is perceived as less. As a risk becomes more familiar, we perceive the risk as less. One of the riskiest things we can do is drive a car but we perceive the risk as minimal as we are in control. One of the safest places on the planet is a jet airliner with two engines and two ATPs at the controls but perceived risk is exponentially higher because we aren’t in control. A pilot flying a general aviation aircraft perceives the risk less as they are in control. A non pilot perceives general aviation far far more risky than statistics would validate. Generally when risk is made familiar or when a person feels in control, the perceived risk will always be perceived as less than the actual risk. Reporting accidents to pilots the risk becomes familiar, pilots are in control and the perceived risk is minimized. Non-pilots who see aviation accidents just come out of the blue (pun intended) and aren’t in control perceive risk much higher than actual risk.

Robert E.

AVweb Rewind: 75th Anniversary of Chuck Yeager’s Mach 1 Flight

I wrote the text and designed an aviation museum in Owatonna, MN. It featured 3 T-38s jets in Thunderbird colors performing a “vertical bomb-burst”–their signature maneuver. One day, while working in the main entrance, an elderly gentleman walked in, and was viewing the displays. I asked him if he was going to enter–he asked the cost of admission. I replied “Nothing, if you will sign your photograph on display.” He retorted “Recognized me, didja?”

We walked through the museum for nearly 2 hours–and he commented on many (most) of the displays–lots of good stories. Perhaps the best Yeager comment was for the ultralight I had on display–“I got me an airplane–an ultralight! Only one I’ve ever owned–some damn fool would always let me fly THEIR airplane!” Here is the first guy to fly supersonic–a test pilot–flying “hot rock” airplanes–and he was flying an ultralight for fun! THAT’S an AVIATOR!

Jim H.

Poll: Do You See Value In Aviation Accident Reports And Videos?

  • In the press? It’s not too useful. People are attracted to things we haven’t seen before, so there tends to be a lot of emphasis on uncommon accidents. But, we’re far more likely to be injured or killed in a basic loss of control accident. What we really need (and Paul Bertorelli has shown great skill in this) is someone to guide us through the data (what little there is) and help us understand where the risk actually is. A perfect example is “keeping the pattern tight so you can survive an engine failure” vs. “flying a stabilized approach from 500-ft”… Am I more likely to die of an engine failure or of loss of control?
  • I’ve been in the aviation business for 38 years as a pilot, mechanic and instructor. While I don’t do as many case studies as I used to, it’s only because I’ve already covered most of the big ones and yes, many of the recent accidents are much like the old ones. However, as society and technology continue to evolve, there are some new twists to keep up with. We elder statesmen probably owe it to pass along some of what we’ve learned along the way to emerging generations of airmen. Studying accidents together is one way to talk about why we do certain things a certain way. Keep those analysis pieces coming!
  • I feel that the coverage of an accident report, where the journalist can translate the legalese and summarize is a great help to those who read it for gaining knowledge. – Greg A.
  • Only if there is a valuable takeaway from the report. Merely reporting on stupid mistakes has no value and is of no interest.
  • I rely on AVWeb (and others) for an aviation-savvy report so that I can clear up impressions given by less-than-insightful general press reports, both for me and people I know. – Lee C.
  • Good to illustrate points. The problem I find is it’s so easy to point out the links in the chain knowing the outcome in retrospect. This leads to a feeling of “that’ll never happen to me” and it’s really quite the opposite. It could. Hard to get that across effectively with students. Also, it’s hard to tell what “type” of pilot they are. Are they top notch poster children of safe operation or some hot dog that people knew would be a problem but slipped through the cracks? Atlas crash comes to mind, but we had the benefit of training records to gauge the FOs caliber.
  • Actual reports, not “early analysis” or speculation.
  • I see value if it includes a probable cause which provides data from which we can address in training.
  • Fine, if relevant to today’s aviation and delivered in a manner that is respectful, informative and not attempting to entertain.
  • I read them to see what caused the accident to learn, so that I don’t make the same mistake.
  • Yes, but reporting needs to be tempered with facts, underlying causes, and lessons learned.
  • Being an aircraft structural engineer, I find reporting that involves structural failure, even if it is a minor incident, to be particularly valuable. Everything else is of secondary interest.
  • Just morbid curiosity.
  • I do see value in them – perhaps as editors, AVweb can append takeaway comments after each one – “What can we learn from this?” in one sentence.
  • Used only for training purposes.
  • Accident reporting and video presentations have a great deal of value for educational purposes. There are too many morning quarterback pundits who shoot from the hip without having the facts. They will humiliate the affected crews without so much an apology and retraction when proven wrong.
  • You can see exactly what NOT to do.
  • I always hope they contain useful information but usually not.
  • Reports, yes. Videos, no.
  • Yes to reports with explanation, no to reports with speculation, no to reports with just narrative.
  • I read them out of curiosity, I guess. That makes me a rubbernecker.

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1 COMMENT

  1. While aviation’s preoccupation with accidents and accident reports may seem strange to outsiders, I consider learning from the mistakes others made does improve safety. In large-aircraft commercial aviation this has helped to improve safety tremendously over the last 70 years and if it does not work as well in GA, it is probably because of GA being much more diverse. There are lots of pilots who don’t study others’ accidents and/or are too lazy to apply some discipline in their flying. Less attention to accidents would reduce safety. If relatives are concerned, it might help to point out that one studies accidents to avoid them (and that pilots backgrounds and attitudes are different).