To Err is Human! “NASA Form”

by Parvez Dara, ATP, MCFII, MEI (and our SAFE Treasurer)

Did you make a mistake today? If you said no. I would beg to differ. We make tiny errors in our daily lives that go unnoticed all the time because they are mostly isolated and of little consequence. The adage is “To err is human.” And to err is universal and seemingly inevitable also.  But here is the hard question, “Are mistakes always a bad thing?”

To answer that question, we may have to ride the train backwards in time. During WWII planes were falling from the sky. More lives were lost from mistakes than from enemy aircraft shoot-downs.

We obviously learned from those mistakes. The total fatal aircraft accident rate in the United States declined dramatically over time from 1959 when the fatal accident rate was 1 in 100,000. As 2016 became history the fatal commercial aircraft accident rate declined to an astonishingly low rate of 1 per 10 million flights. Imagine the log reduction in loss of life! A proof worth hanging your hat on. Education about Loss of Control, Fuel Management, Decision Making and Judgement were the important improvements to bring the number down. Yet if we were to look at airline safety data from 2009 (without jinxing anything) there has been a zero-accident rate in the seven-year period. That is incredible!

The General Aviation Accident Rate per year however is a different story. It is presented below and is based on the NTSB data available to date. The higher rate of fatal accidents in the general Aviation Community is partly because of lack of professionalism, single pilot operations and the “bold pilot” mode of thinking.

YEARS GA Accident Rate/100,000 GA Fatal Accidents GA Fatalities
FY10 1.1 272 471
FY11 1.12 278 469
FY12 1.09 267 442
FY13 1.11 259 449
FY14 1.09 252 435
FY15 0.99 238 384
FY16 0.91 219 413

So, let me get back to the issue of is “To Err” a bad thing?

The answer is a qualified NO. However, with a caveat, to repeat an error made by others, which has been used as a learning event, is definitely a bad thing. It is important to know that the NTSB data was created out of bent metal and loss of life. Errors made by expanding the envelope of flight teach us what not to do. Though it’s never easy to admit these mistakes, “fessing up” is a crucial step in learning, growing, and improving.  The FAA rules are created based on the NTSB information for pilot’s personal and his or her passenger’s safety and based mostly on the erroneous adventures of others.

The FAA has in place a NASA form just for this purpose. If you make a mistake or believe you might have, it is important to fill out the form and send it along for record keeping. The form is evaluated based on ATC tracking data and if no intentional errors were made, the pilot receives a response in kind. If however, there was an error committed, the pilot has protection by self-reporting of the error. This is the whole basis for a Safety Management System. A pilot is forgiven for any errors committed over a three-year period. A continuous flow of errors however point to the pilot’s competency and decision making that might require a rehabilitation and remediation strategy. Read the monthly intake here.

Electronic submission here, ASRS Form available below

https://asrs.arc.nasa.gov/docs/general.pdf

Assuming you are in a hurry and wish to fly for a $100 hamburger with impatient passengers tapping their toes. Allowing them to influence your preflight decisions to not drain the fuel or check the oil content, hazards will loom in that flight. These risks may remain only as risks and not bite you or your passengers, but the “kick the tire and light the fire” does have adverse consequences if repeated. And one day, when all the gremlins go for their “Labor Day vacation” watchout! Latest “Callback” Newsletter

Based on the FAA Fact Sheet

The Top 10 Leading Causes of Fatal General Aviation Accidents 2001-2013: 

  1. Loss of Control Inflight (see recent SAFE Livestream!)
    2. Controlled Flight into Terrain
    3. System Component Failure – Powerplant
    4. Fuel Related – contamination, starvation or exhaustion
    5. Unknown or Undetermined
    6. System Component Failure – Non-Powerplant
    7. Unintended Flight in IMC
    8. Midair Collisions Low
    9. Altitude Operations
    10. Other

Please “follow” our SAFE blog to receive notification of new articles. Write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute an article. We are always seeking more input on aviation improvements and flight safety. There are many highly qualified aviation educators out there! If you are not yet a SAFE member, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment worthwhile and fun. Lastly, use our FREE SAFE Toolkit App to put pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smart phone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Working together we make safer pilots!

 

Aviation Safety; We Can Do Better!

My condolences to the family of Roy Halladay, by all accounts a talented and generous person with so much potential. Not only has the world lost this amazing person, but aviation has suffered another very public black eye with the repeating question “How can this happen?” From what has become available so far, there seems to be some avoidable risks in the recent Icon A5 crash that could have been mitigated.

Identifying and mitigating risks is the essence of aviation safety and this includes the psychological discipline of saying NO to “having too much fun”. Exercising “executive function” and knowing where and when *not* to fly is critical to safety. (See Dr. Bill Rhodes “Pilots Who Should Scare Us”) Maintaining adequate altitude in the cruise phase of flight is one of our critical margins of safety as pilots. Low level maneuvering flight (below 1000 feet) usually comprises only 15% of our exposure as pilots but is where over 70% of fatalities occur. Loss of control accidents are disproportionately represented in this phase of flight. If you add intentional radical maneuvers this only asks for trouble. This type of demonstration flying, though exciting, requires a highly trained professional pilot and a aerodynamically robust high-G machine. This precise and demanding flying should be left to airshow pros! There is no way a new pilot should be flying an LSA in this manner.

And as Steve Pope of Flying Magazine has pointed out, marketing this kind of low level “yank and bank” flying as an obtainable and safe activity is scary to many veteran pilots.

Pope said “the plane itself is great,” but he had concerns about Halladay, a new pilot with little flying time, taking the craft out over water at low altitude, though the plane was marketed as a craft that could do that.

“They still think that that’s the way the airplane should be flown, and there are people in aviation who completely disagree with that,” Pope said. “They think you should not have a low-time pilot flying low over water. That’s a recipe for disaster.”

This kind of behavior in the hands of new pilots will certainly lead to more accidents. We will be talking about the aerodynamics and psychology of loss of control (LOC-I) this Thursday the 16th at 8PM EST with aerobatic champion Patty Wagstaff and upset training specialist Rich Stowell. This livestream is presented by the FAA and qualifies participants for FAA Master Wings. As an additional incentive, our generous sponsors at Lightspeed Aviation are providing a Zulu 3 headset to be offered to a random winner at the end of the show; please join us.

Please “follow” our SAFE blog to receive notification of new articles. Write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute an article. We are always seeking more input on aviation improvements and flight safety. There are many highly qualified aviation educators out there! If you are not yet a SAFE member, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment worthwhile and fun. Lastly, use our FREE SAFE Toolkit App to put pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smart phone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Working together we make safer pilots!

Channeling Patty Wagstaff; Focus and Discipline!

It is too easy to focus on the negative viewpoint when considering the overwhelming number of Loss of Control accidents.  The more positive flip side is just that every pilot should approach flying with a high degree of focus and discipline. Mastery of the airplane and environment should be a self-motivating goal for every good pilot. And hopefully, every pilot has in their heart the drive to continuously improve and be the top of their game.

Unfortunately, emphasis on only “fun and the easiest, cheapest pathway” can lead to a very dangerous aviation experience. Aviation requires we do our homework, practice and learn our skills, and only then engage in this amazing activity. This can be a wonderful motivation for improvement. Join us in our live Loss of Control discussion Nov 16th featuring Patty Wagstaff and Rich Stowell.

In this YouTube Patty very clearly explains her personal motivation for her obvious aviation mastery; she is charged up *because* what she does is difficult (and even more challenging for a female). She clearly emphasizes the need for complete focus on the mission at hand and a thorough knowledge of the airplane and its systems. Fortunately, we are not pursuing aeronautical control at the level of Patty Wagstaff, but channeling that same attitude of professionalism and mastery can make us all better pilots.

“I think that one of the major reasons I like to fly is the mastery of this machine in a three-dimensional airspace; when you’re really comfortable with an airplane and you’ve really mastered it, you really can control it. To be a good and safe [aerobatic] pilot you have to have 100% concentrated focus on the activity at hand. The reason that I love flying and love aviation is because it’s always a challenge, it could never be boring because it’s never the same.”


Please “follow” our SAFE blog to receive notification of new articles. Write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute an article. We are always seeking more input on aviation improvements and flight safety. There are many highly qualified aviation educators out there! If you are not yet a SAFE member, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment worthwhile and fun. Lastly, use our FREE SAFE Toolkit App to put pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smart phone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Working together we make safer pilots!

 

Addressing the “Loss of Control” Dilemma!

Loss of control in flight (LOC-I) is the “catch-all causal factor” for the NTSB, topping the list of fatal accident causes and the “Most Wanted List” for every year in recent memory. We are excited to have Patty Wagstaff and Rich Stowell for our live ScreenCast on November 16th unpacking this dilemma. NTSB Member Earl Weener has called LOC-I a “stubbornly recurrent safety challenge.” Please join us and you can even collect Master Wings Credit from the FAA!

Loss of Control Inflight is a many headed monster. People lose control after icing up in the clouds or after encountering turbulence from wake or weather. But they also inexplicably lose control and crash on sunny days turning base to final in their home traffic pattern. In almost all cases these encounters end up fatal; they mostly occur down low with no room for recovery. Spoiler alert but it seems all these accidents come back to the same cause of insufficient flying skill and knowledge in a challenging situation. We must also include judgment in the causal chain because pilots usually get into a desperate situation and lose aircraft command before they lose aircraft control. They wander into dangerous, often avoidable situations. The end result is pilots are put to an extreme test requiring our greatest piloting skills and unfortunately run out of talent. As a DPE, I always advise successful new pilots, “This flight test was not the *real* test; flying  in life is the ‘real test’; stay current and sharp out there!” Apparently, we are not doing too well passing the “real test” in aviation.

What I *do* know from examining pilots for over 20 years is that many have only the most basic grasp of the real aerodynamics of maneuvering flight. And unfortunately many do not continue to train and improve after passing their evaluation (FAA Wings is a good incentive program to keep pilots training regularly). Our FAA testing standards are specifically designed to require the basic minimums of skill, knowledge and judgment. Even so, many applicants cringe when I tell them we are going to perform our stalls in the test while turning (as the ACS allows) And I frequently hear “my instructor never trained that.” (But this is usually how LOC-I actually happens in real life.) During the oral, few applicants can unpack the real forces, risks and dangers of maneuvering flight without some prompting. And in every flight review I give, I assign AOPA’s “Essential Aerodynamics” course as part of the ground training. This wonderful ASI production has no Greek letters and nicely explains the “mysteries of flight” (which I guarantee are beyond most pilots’ understanding) Please dig in here if you honestly feel challenged (for your safety) and please get some dual if your skills are rusty.

We absolutely must acquire and retain critical, non-intuitive, “ready for action” flying skills and knowledge if we want to stay safe in the air. We have to understand aerodynamic stalls and also the effect of load on this poorly stated “stall speed”! As much as I love flying, it is certainly not all “fun and games!” (What you don’t know *will* hurt you in aviation.) But aviation *is* honestly rewards effort and what you invest in good training will be paid back in confidence and safety. This YouTube from Rich Stowell (who will be in the SAFE screencast) demonstrates amazing piloting control and situational awareness and Patty takes this even further with her amazing airshow performances. If we all could fly at this level of skill, LOC-I would disappear from the accident list and we all would be safer in the air.

Tune in on Thursday, November 16th and we will try to shed more light on why Loss of Control is so challenging. The free SAFE Resource Center has lots of good materials for pilots and CFIs. You can send your questions in the “comments” below and to #askgoldseal on Twitter or Facebook the night of the show.


Please “follow” our SAFE blog to receive notification of new articles. Write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute an article. We are always seeking more input on aviation improvements and flight safety. There are many highly qualified aviation educators out there! If you are not yet a SAFE member, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment worthwhile and fun. Lastly, use our FREE SAFE Toolkit App to put pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smart phone and facilitate CFI+DPE teamwork. Working together we make safer pilots!