Monday, December 24, 2012

Deadly Private-Plane Crashes On The Increase

Flying by private-pilots isn’t getting any safer (better?). According to Bloomberg News (Deadly Private-Plane Crashes Prompt U.S. Call For Basics, June 19,2012), the crash rate on private-pilots is up 20 percent since 2000, contrasting with an 85% drop in accidents of commercial jet liners (good). Looks as if private-pilots need to do a lot better, and here goes more supporting data. The accident rate for all GA (General Aviation) is 7/100,000 from 2007-2010. Private pilots, mostly small single engine a/c, averaged 12/100,000 crashes. They go onto say: over 12 times higher than the average rate for other types of GA flying. And to continue, even worse news: the rate of deadly wrecks in private flying has grown faster than the accident rate as a whole, up 25% since 2000. Do you wonder why insurance premiums have risen?

The article continues: many GA accidents resulted from inattention to basics. (Reminds me of my article suggesting that pilots are distracted by things in the cockpit like cell phones, tablets etc.). Pilots have overloaded planes, failed to check the weather, and made errors that caused the planes to lose lift and/or going out of control. This latter cause was found to be the case in most accidents by the FAA and the GA Joint Steering Committee. Not very encouraging data is it? Pilots you can do better! Start by going back to basics. Pay attention to attitude, airspeed and the weather for starters, rather than staring at the GPS screen instead of the glideslope and localizer (when IFR).

Finally, I want to report and offer suggestions how to avoid the most frequent type of airline accident, the runway overrun after a botched approach. This was reported in the WSJ on 12/19/12. Hey fellow pilots, it pertains to all of GA as well, even though I don’t have the stats particularly for private-pilots.

Of all the GA overrun accidents I have read about on the NTSB website, this one stands out in my memory. A Cirrus landing in VFR weather, on a reasonable length paved runway, just couldn’t put the plane down on the tarmac and tried to force it with resulting “wheel barrowing”. The plane still had enough airspeed (energy) to want to keep on flying, which it did, into a building. All were killed. It is so important to pay attention to airspeed and attitude on final. Too fast, steep or shallow an approach can end up as they did, unless you recognize your error and if you can’t correct things in time, add power and go around. The other consideration is where you touch down on the runway. Somewhere in the first 25% of the runway makes good sense. In good VFR, shoot for the runway numbers. I used to do that even in my twins. That should insure that you have plenty of runway left to decide whether you can stop or not. Remember that small planes don’t have the greatest braking capability. So PLAN AHEAD!

A topic I want to tackle in the future is limits pilots should adhere to in single engine IFR flight conditions. Another is looking into reasons for engine failures in light planes, as there seems to be so many reported on the FAA accident website.

That’s it for now. Have a good holiday and watch out for Santa’s sleigh. See you next year.