Return to site

Vectors for Safety - January 2021

Safety Initiative Update

Ramp Accidents Continue

On December 3, 2020, one person received minor injuries when an Aeronca being hand propped, cleared chocks and went into a barrier in Ohio. This was reported in the daily ASIAS listing but no other information has become available yet.

A person was seriously injured On December 10, 2020 in Minnesota when they walked into the propeller of a running Cessna 172. Only preliminary information is available, but the ASIAS report states, "aircraft arrived, shutdown and the passenger went to their car, aircraft was started and passenger returned to aircraft and walked into the propeller." The FAA Preliminary Report states that this was an instructional flight as part of a Part 141 flight school and that it was night conditions. We must note that preliminary report information is subject to change.

The ramp is a dangerous place and we must remember that for ourselves and we must constantly remind passengers of propeller dangers.

Why So Many Power Loss Events

Aircraft engines are generally quite reliable. Recent ASIAS reports list either "power loss" or "engine failure" much more frequently than in the past. These are preliminary reports, frequently based on the statement of the pilot. Are engines suddenly becoming less reliable? If so, why? How many of these accidents and incidents are fuel related in some way?

The December 14, 2020 ASIAS report listed 16 incidents/accidents and 5 of them cited some form of power loss. Two more stated that the airplane crashed under unknown circumstances which could be power loss of some sort. This apparent surge in power related incidents/accidents could be coincidence or could be a trend resulting from lack of maintenance, poos fuel planning or fuel management, fuel contamination, or something else. Let's take the steps to make sure we do not end up in a power loss situation.

Keep Your Hand Where it Belongs!

I heard that phrase frequently in my younger years and it did not always involve flying. But keeping to our aviation discussions, I have always taught my students to keep a hand on the throttle (or power lever for the jet crowd) whenever we are in motion on or in flight near the ground. This serves a dual purpose. The obvious advantage is to ensure a quick response to a situation such as collision avoidance on the ground or the execution of a ground in the air. The other purpose is to remove the temptation to tune a radio, program the GPS, or anything else that divides our attention and pilfers some of it away from the operation of the aircraft.

VFR into IFR

We analyze accidents in an attempt to learn lessons that may help us to be safer. We can most likely learn more from the accidents that were avoided. A good source for those lessons is the NASA Callback publication which collates a few reported events from the ASRS database. The December 2020 edition, Callback Issue #491, focuses on VFR into IFR events and is worth look. Click here to visit the website from which you can view present and past issues and also subscribe to their monthly newsletter.

Celebrate the New Year with a Good Belt!

Of course we are talking about seatbelts and harnesses. What is the condition of the restraint system in the airplanes you fly? Are there any service bulletins regarding the restraints? If so, have they been addressed? Is the webbing a bit frayed? Are all the attach points properly installed and in good condition? Do you have a shoulder harness installed for all seats?

We never begin a flight thinking that we may end up having an accident or even having to make an off-airport landing. Yet, Multiple accidents and off-airport landings happen every day. It is easy to ignore our restraint systems. Our humanness permits optimism bias to interfere with our good judgement and ignore those frayed edges, work buckles, or faulty attach points. Our restraint system is our last defense against serious injury or death when a flight goes awry. Many NTSB accident reports include a statement that the serious injuries or death probably could have been avoided had the occupants been better restrained during the accident sequence.

The second accident analysis this month illustrates a fatal accident in which little or no injury would have occurred had the pilot's restraint not failed.

View the Recorded Webinars

Autumn 2020 saw three all new webinars in the Avemco Pilot Talk series. The December presentation, "Birds, Bullets, Bears" Had an attendance of 1,011 with 918 people qualifying for FAA wings credit. If you missed any of the webinars, or if you would like to review, they were all recorded and posted on YouTube. Click here to visit the Videos section on the Vectors website. Note: Wings credit cannot be earned by viewing the video.

Upcoming Recommended On-Line Event Tues. Jan. 5

My friend and colleague, Ed Wischmeyer, Ph.D., ATP/CFII is doing a live presentation on Tuesday, January 5 at 7:00 PM Central time. (Convert to your local time zone if necessary.) Ed's description is as follows: "We will develop a working definition of loss of control, supported by three published research papers; review accident statistics based on raw data, including 551 RV-series aircraft accidents as well as review of a well-known safety documents; show how digital flight data and surveillance video provide new sources of accident data; describe low speed spirals (LoSS) masquerade as spins; describe accidents with lateral and longitudinal control decoupling as a primary factor; reveal cognitive availability as the most promising addressable issue for LOC; and explain the Exanded Envelope Exercises® as the most accessible, affordable and effective tool for addressing LOC."

This is not a "Vectors" presentation; we will simply be attendees at the event. We have no additional information regarding attendance limits or whether it will be recorded. But we do know that Ed is very knowledgeable on the subject and has done extensive research, so we recommend attending the online event. There is no advance registration. Use the following information to join at the appropriate time:

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 875 4148 7352
Passcode: 760700
One tap mobile
+13462487799,,87541487352#,,,,*760700# US (Houston)
+12532158782,,87541487352#,,,,*760700# US (Tacoma)

Dial by your location
+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
+1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
+1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
+1 301 715 8592 US (Washington D.C)
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
+1 646 558 8656 US (New York)
Meeting ID: 875 4148 7352
Passcode: 760700
Find your local number:

Trust but Verify

This old Russian proverb, popularized by Ronald Reagan, applies to many things in aviation. Gene's blog this month encourages pilots to fly with an instructor that they have never flown with before. That is great advice, but we must make sure that the instructor is qualified and competent. Can we assume that we will be safe if we walk into an established flight school and ask to be scheduled with a flight instructor? Apparently not.

Read the following accident analysis to see how a commercial pilot with no flight instructor certificate and little recent experience in similar airplanes was assigned to fly with a primary student. It does not appear that the flight school ever asked to see a flight instructor certificate or the pilot's logbook before hiring the pilot.

Most of us would not buy a used car without checking the car's history nor would we buy a house without having a home inspection done. Choosing a competent flight instructor is arguably even more important. We are literally trusting our life and perhaps our family's future to our flight instructor. Any instructor should be willing to show pilot and medical certificates to a potential student. And for we instructors, let's willingly show our certificates to any present or potential student who asks.

Gene's Blog


By Gene Benson

How did Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Joe Montana become great quarterbacks? How did Jay Leno, Don Rickles, and Eddie Murphy become great comedians? Did they wake up one morning and realize that talent had suddenly been bestowed upon them? Were they struck by lightening and somehow skill-enhanced? Probably not. They each started out with an interest and worked extremely hard to learn their craft and develop their abilities through study and practice. They improved in increments.

We can become better pilots by also improving in increments. As we begin a new year let us all agree to be incrementally better pilots by the end of the year. Here is a strategy to accomplish that goal.

If not already participating, enroll in the FAA Wings Pilot Proficiency Program and complete a phase. If already enrolled, complete the next level, advanced or master, as appropriate.

Before getting into proximity with another person, we must take all necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the virus and this of course applies to flight or simulator instruction. Providing we can be safe from infections, fly for at least one and a half hours with an instructor you have never flown with before. Ask around to get recommendations from other pilots. No matter how much we might like “our” instructor or how loyal we might be to them, there is always something to be learned from a different perspective. This instructional time can be used as part of the Wings program.

Again, taking necessary steps to be safe, seek out a flight simulator of some sort. Many flight schools now have some level of simulation available. Find an instructor and give it a try if you have not yet experienced it.

Participate in a recurrent ground school course. Recurrent ground school is different than initial ground school in that the emphasis can be on information that is practical rather than on what is needed to pass the exam.

Read over the handbook for the kind of airplane that you usually fly. Pay particular attention to the section on systems operation. Many accidents and incidents could be avoided if the pilot had understood more about how the systems function.

Resolve to take four additional online courses. That is only one every three months. Plenty are available for free. has a selection of very good free courses. Our Vectors for Safety website offers several free courses that are valid for Wings credit.

Read at least two aviation articles each month from a reputable magazine. Even articles that are not intended to be safety related frequently have content that produces an “Oh yeah!” moment.

These are just a few ideas but it is a starting point. Chose one, or two, or all, or come up with some ideas of your own. We will not become super pilots overnight but we can move incrementally toward that goal.

Accident Analysis
NTSB Photo ERA14FA387

Photo Source: NTSB

This accident involving a Cessna 150, happened in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina in August 2014.Both the 22-year-old student and the 33-year-old "instructor" died in the crash. The commercial pilot acting as the flight instructor did not hold a flight instructor certificate. The NTSB accident report includes the following: "The airplane was operated by the student pilot's father, who in July 2014 employed Coastal Aviation, Inc., a flight school at LRO, to provide flight instruction to his son in the airplane. The owner of the flight school assigned the commercial pilot, who was recently hired as a flight instructor, to instruct the
student. According to the student pilot's father, his son was attending college near LRO, and the
commercial pilot helped him reposition the airplane to LRO for his son's convenience in the weeks that
preceded the accident." The NTSB accident report also states: "The commercial pilot and student pilot had previously completed approximately two 1-hour long instructional flights together. The following statement is also included in the NTSB accident report: "While the commercial pilot told the flight school owner that he was a certificated flight instructor, a check of his logbook would have revealed that he did not hold a flight instructor certificate."

Photo Source: NTSB

As for the accident sequence, the NTSB accident report includes: "On the day of the accident flight, the commercial pilot and the student pilot were flying their third instructional flight together. After completing a preflight inspection, the commercial pilot and student pilot taxied to the runway and began the takeoff roll. Witnesses reported that the airplane departed the runway about midfield and immediately looked unstable. Multiple observers stated that the airplane stalled about 100 ft above ground level and subsequently entered a nose-down dive before it impacted the ground seconds later."

NTSB Photo ERA14FA387

The NTSB Probable Cause states: "The commercial pilot's exceedance of the airplane's critical angle-of-attack during the initial climb, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall and impact with terrain. Contributing to the commercial pilot's failure to recognize and remediate the stall were his lack of experience as a flight instructor and lack of recent experience in the accident airplane make and model."

The lesson to be learned here is that when choosing a flight instructor, trust but verify.

broken image
broken image

Photo Source: NTSB

This accident happened in Parma New York in July of 2014. The 88-year-old commercial pilot/CFI died in the crash. As can be seen in the accident photo above, the passenger compartment of the airplane was not compromised in the accident, but the pilot was fatally injured. The NTSB accident report includes the following description of the accident: "The commercial pilot of the tailwheel-equipped airplane was performing touch-and-go landings at his private airport with a right quartering tailwind. During landing roll, the pilot lost directional control, and the airplane departed the left side of the runway into a wheat field where it nosed over. Examination of the runway revealed that a prominent row of trees was located directly adjacent to the right side of the runway, and given the prevailing wind, there would have been associated turbulence due to the disruption of the ambient wind flow as it passed over the trees."

The following excerpt from the accident report reveals why this simple nose-over accident became a fatal event. "Examination of the airplane revealed no evidence of any anomalies that would have precluded normal operation. The crown of the fuselage above the pilot's seat displayed an outward bulge indicating that, during the nose over, the pilot's head contacted the overhead area of the cockpit interior, which likely caused the cervical spine fracture and positional asphyxiation injuries described in the pilot's autopsy report. Examination of the pilot's 4-point restraint system revealed that the aluminum center safety belt bracket, which was likely installed when the airplane was manufactured in 1946, had failed in shearing overstress during the nose over. This resulted in the pilot being partially released from the restraint system and subsequently contacting the crown of the airplane. Examination of the airplane manufacturer's records revealed that shortly after the airplane was manufactured in 1946, the manufacturer began installing a steel center safety belt bracket in new production airplanes. Following this accident, the manufacturer issued a service bulletin that called for inspection of the center seat belt bracket on all Cessna 120 and 140 airplanes to determine if the latest type (steel) bracket was installed and replacement of any older type (aluminum) brackets found with the latest type."

The NTSB Probable Cause states, "The pilot's decision to land with a quartering tailwind and his failure to maintain directional control during the landing roll. Contributing to the severity of the pilot's injuries was the failure of the aluminum center safety belt bracket."

Our lesson to be learned from this accident is that we owe it to ourselves, our passengers, and our families to ensure that our restraint systems are up-to-date and in good condition. They are our last line of defense.

Safety Initiative Support

Our lesson to be learned from this accident is that we owe it to ourselves, our passengers, and our families to ensure that our restraint systems are up-to-date and in good condition. They are our last line of defense.

Donations are not tax deductible.