20% of Accidents Involve Showing Off!

We have amazing freedom as pilots operating under part 91. This provides great flexibility but also permits a dramatically higher accident rate compared to every other sector of aviation. We need to better manage the “freedom, flexibility, and fun” afforded by Part 91 permissiveness. Safety is almost completely in the pilot’s hands. Safety depends almost entirely on the decisions we make before and during every flight. Consequently, teaching and managing risk is a central part of aviation training.

Safe pilot decisions often require saying *no* to “attractive opportunities” or “more efficient shortcuts” and taking the (sometimes) harder path. It also requires “controlling the inner child” when “fun” is calling. In short, safety requires awareness and discipline. The FAA does not really have the time or resources to be “sky cops” and police every pilot activity. They only resort to enforcement for the most egregious public stupidity (incidents and accidents). In essence, the FAA system depends on compliance; pilots doing the right thing: exercising personal discipline and good sense. This requires mutually embraced norms and SOPs with a robust safety culture for support.

High Rate of Pilots “Showing Off!”

A recent article in FAA Safety Briefing examined GA accidents that were not mechanically or weather related. The author was searching for errors in pilot decision making and the results were stunning:

Nearly 20% of the accidents I reviewed involved an element of showing off — either to people on the ground, or to people who were on board the aircraft. In fact, 10% of the accidents in my search involved improper aerobatic flight   FAA Safety Briefing

Though historically, there have always been rogue pilots, the attitudes of these people are almost impossible to correct (and these people are not reading blogs on aviation safety). SAFE primarily focuses on accidents that were the result of unintentional oversights; decision problems or exceeding capabilities rather than willful reckless rulebreaking. We certainly can fix “showing off” with a little self-restraint; professionalism.

There is though a noticeable increase in wild flying stunts and anti-authoritarian attitudes -often powered by YouTube. The FAA’s regulatory freedom has become an opportunity to do just about anything with an airplane. Consequently, FAA enforcement of crazy video stunts is on the rise- the FAA watches those crazy videos too. These wild activities and anti-authoritarian activities are also increasingly documented in NASA reports. Instructors have known for years that a “bad attitude” is the hardest problem to fix in aviation. See Dr. Bill Rhodes Scary Pilots here and read the incident below for some “aviation horror.” Have you seen the YouTube online of a Cirrus doing a (poorly flown) barrel roll?Unfortunately, these rogue pilots are everywhere out there; stay vigilant and fly defensively. We can only “tend our own garden.” Fly safely out there (and often)!

Ever been to an exciting “display event” like Nascar, a demolition derby, or airshow and discovered in yourself an irresistible urge to replicate those exciting behaviors? This is a common human problem. Pilots often stand in awe at airshows (or even when witnessing “stupid pilot tricks” that succeed due to luck alone.)  Read Dudley Henriques’ article that describes this “aerobatic euphoria” every pilot should be aware of (and cautious to avoid).

Enjoy the new courses available to members on the new safe website. And please download and use the (free) SAFE Toolkit App. This contains all the references a working CFI needs plus provides continuously new safety content.

See you at Sun ‘N Fun 2023 at “Charlie Hangar” Booths #19/20. SAFE spnsors and members please join us at Sunset Cafe for a free SAFE breakfast Thursday (March 30th), 8am. (Get your free ticket here)

SAFE developed an insurance program just for CFIs! When you are an independent CFI, you are a business (and have legal exposure). This program is the most reasonable but also comprehensive insurance plan you can have (and every agent is a pilot!)

Author: David St. George

SAFE Director, Master CFI (12X), FAA DPE, ATP (ME/SE) Currently jet charter captain.

4 thoughts on “20% of Accidents Involve Showing Off!”

      1. No problem at all. Anything that helps the cause of safety is a go with me.

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