Pilot Safety News
A Safety Journal for General Aviation
Spring, 2008 

by Max Trescott, 2008 National CFI of the Year
www.sjflight.com  (650)-224-7124

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This is our traditional Sun 'n Fun issue. It's the second largest air show in the U.S. and as it's name says, it's Fun. You can skip to our coverage of it here.

There was a spectacular article written about my philosophy of the business of teaching people to fly at www.jetwhine.com which just appeared yesterday. Please check it out and let me know what you think. Coincidentally (really!), we wrote about my favorite aviation blogs this month, which I commend to your for your consideration.

The glowing reports you've read in NTSB and other press releases about 2007 General Aviation Accident data are Not what they seem. They definitely put their "spin" on the data, and show you the numbers that show a very different story about the trend in general aviation accidents.

There's been lots of talk in the industry about what types of training or mentoring may be required for Very Light Jet (VLJ) operators. With more than 200 VLJs in service, the first accidents are starting to occur, and we show you how VLJ accidents are no different that those in business jets.

The Airline Hiring picture is starting to change. Read our update on the latest airline hiring trends.

There is one airline trend that is a little disturbing and not yet reported elsewhere in the aviation press. India is preparing to kick foreign pilots out of their jobs, and you'll read about it only here.

I've just been named the President of the Coalition for Responsible Airport Management and Policy, which is one of the organizations working to save Reid-Hillview Airport from the latest closure attempt. If you live in the Silicon Valley, expect to receive an email from this week on how you can support this effort to save the airport.

Every year, the Ninety Nines women's flying organization sponsors Flying Companion Seminars at many locations around the country. They are excellent seminars for a non-flying spouse or partner to learn about what it's like to fly and how they can help you with your flying duties when they're in the right seat. If you happen live in Silicon Valley, CA, then you may want to sign your significant other up for this annual seminar which will be held on Saturday, May 17, 2008 from 8AM to 5PM at the West Valley Flying Club at the Palo Alto Airport. A $65 donation is suggested and you can find out more information about the seminar by going the Ninety Nines website or calling Mary Ann Dach at 408-298-4467 or emailing her at iama99@gmail.com.

Finally, I've included summaries here of some recent posts from my Max Trescott on GA blog. I encourage you to subscribe for free email updates from my blog. That site will be update much more frequently than this one and will include current news and analysis. You'll find it at www.maxtrescott.com. It's also an easier way for me to share photos, and you'll find a large number of photos I took at Sun n' Fun on the blog.

best regards,
Max Trescott, 2008 National CFI of the Year

2007 GA Accident Data Not What it Seems
Glowing NTSB Press Release Doesn't Tell the Full Story
Over the last ten years, there’s been relatively little change in the GA fatal accident rate. Surprised? You probably thought that the accident rate has been plummeting, but it hasn’t. We live in a world of spin, so it’s no surprise that a NTSB press release earlier this year carefully selected data to put the best possible spin on 2007 GA accident data. While the data they present is accurate, it obscures a greater truth: that the GA fatal accident rate remains relatively unchanged over the last ten years.

Quoting from the NTSB press release:
While the overall number of general aviation accidents rose from 1,518 in 2006 to 1,631 in 2007, the number of fatalities in 2007 was down from 703 to 491 (a 30 percent decrease), making it the lowest annual total in more than 40 years.

The biggest problem with this data is that it deals with the number of accidents, not the underlying rate at which accidents occur and we’ll discuss that important distinction later. Looking at NTSB press release, a casual reader might conclude: “This is great, fatal accidents are down 30%,” however they would be completely wrong in that conclusion. Read carefully and you’ll see that the number of fatalities, is down, not the number of accidents. Typically the distinction wouldn’t be important, but it was in 2007. In recent years, GA has had about 300 fatal accidents per year and about 600 fatalities, meaning that on average, two people were killed in each fatal crash.

Historically, this number of people in each crash hasn’t changed much, but it did in 2007! In 2006, GA had 306 fatal accidents that killed 703 people, or an average of 2.3 people per plane. In 2007, 491 people died in 284 accidents, or an average of 1.7 people per plane. Thus fully 25% of the 30% decrease in fatalities is explained simply by random variation in the average number of people killed in each crash.

The other problem with just counting the total number of accidents or fatalities is that these numbers are driven down by any decline in the total number of hours flown. If everyone in the country suddenly drove their car only half as much (which might happen if gas prices continue to rise), we’d expect auto accidents to also be cut in half, and it would be silly for any organization to claim credit for reducing auto accidents. Yet that’s exactly what goes on in General Aviation.

Let’s look back about ten years and see what’s really changed. In 1998, there were 365 accidents that killed 625 people. Compared with 2007 data, that means that over ten years, total GA fatal accidents decreased 22.2% and fatalities decreased by 21.4%. So that means fatalities dropped by less than 2% a year—not the 30% in one year drop trumpeted in the NTSB press release. Of course over that same ten year period, the number of GA hours flown dropped by 6.6% suggesting that the true underlying rate of decline in fatal accidents was just 15.6%, or about 1.5% per year.

Depending upon the year you pick for comparison, one could argue that the GA fatal accident rate is unchanged for the past ten years. Instead of looking at the past ten years, look at the past nine. In 1999, there were 1.16 fatal accidents per 100,000 hours flown versus 1.19 fatal accidents per 100,000 hours in 2007. Thus one could argue that that most of the gains in General Aviation were made in the prior ten years, and that there’s been no significant change in the GA fatal accident rate in the last nine years!

I’ve included NTSB data for the past 20 years so that you can draw your own conclusions. One thing is certain: It was NOT 30% safer to fly in 2007 than it was in 2006. So keep your wits about you and fly every flight as if your life depended upon it. It does.

Table 10. Accidents, Fatalities, and Rates, 1988 through 2007,
U.S. General Aviation





per 100,000
Flight Hours





Flight Hours



































































































































































Aviation Blogs
Fun, Informative News and Opinion
Blogs, short for "Web Logs," are also part of the emerging new media. Most are written by one or just a couple of authors, and have frequent updates. They're typically organized in serial fashion, with the most recent posting shown at the top of the page, and the oldest posting shown way down at the bottom of page. Blogs are a little easier to update and maintain than a website, so they're becoming a popular way for people to get a web presence for a smaller investment of time and money.

Naturally, my favorite blog is Max Trescott on General Aviation. I strongly urge you to visit the website now and subscribe to it by entering your email address, or connecting to the RSS feed. You'll find that my blog is updated far more often, typically once a week. While this newsletter is focused primarily on safety, my blog is focused on General Aviation Advocacy, Safety and News & Events. You'll also find an occasional analysis article dissecting an industry event. Occasionally, articles from the blog will also appear in this newsletter.

My morning ritual consists of scanning a number of blogs, to see what's new in the industry. I typically do this using Google Reader, since it pulls all of the blogs together on a single web page, making it easier to scan them all for changes. Here are some of the blogs I read.

JetWhine.com. Robert Mark, former airline pilot and author is the driving force behind Jet Whine, which features almost daily posts on subjects ranging general aviation to jets. He's also recently brought Scott Spangler on board, whose name you may recognize from the likes of EAA Sport Aviation Magazine. A recent article featured an interview with me, discussing some of my philosophy around the business of teaching flying.

Av8rdan's World of Flying. You'll have no doubt when reading this that Dan Pimentel is a professional writer. He works for an aviation ad agency in Oregon, and in his words, the blog includes "daily posts on general aviation, the airlines.....served with a dose of lighthearted good fun." Not only is his blog fun to read, but it's probably effective advertising for his business.

2flytv.com is written by Andrew Schmertz and Guy Helson, who also produced and sell a pair of aviation DVD's. You'll find hundreds of posts from Light Sport to the recent financial problems at Adam Aircraft. Frequently they also circle back to provide additional information and perspective about stories on which they've previously reported. There's is the first site where I read of CFI Clancy Prevost being awarded $5 million by the State Department, which lead to my blog posting about Clancy, who grew up two blocks from me.

The Plastic Pilot blog is written by a Swiss general aviation pilot who is a fancier of modern glass cockpit aircraft. He writes daily posts that cover everything from flying tips and recent accidents (such as the British Airways 777 that crashed at Heathrow after a power loss) and answers questions submitted by readers.

AOPA is just now starting to get into the blog business. You can read AOPA's Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Bruce Landsberg's Air Safety eJournal. You can also find a combined blog from AOPA's magazine editors at AOPA Pilot  Reporting Points. Frankly, I think combined blogs like this are the way of the future. Since multiple blog at the same location, you end up with more variety and more postings than a single person could sustain. Perhaps really large blogs will become the future online versions of newspapers?

Some of the other blogs that I frequent include:

AirportBusiness Blogs published by Airport Business magazine.

Alliance for Aviation Across America written by the organization's Executive Director Selena Shilad.

CAPblog which is an unofficial journal by a CAP volunteer

There are a number of other blogs I read, but most of them are updated less frequently. If you have a favorite blog you'd like to share, send me an email about it.

Sun 'n Fun 2008
Great Fun in Florida
If you love aviation—and I suspect that many readers do—you should make a point of visiting Sun ‘n Fun in Lakeland Florida in April, 2009. I’ve just returned from this year’s show and it was great as always. Sun ‘n Fun is the second largest air show in the country, but it has one big advantage over the #1 show. At Sun ‘n Fun, you’ll find all of the vendors and industry people that you’ll see at other shows, but at Sun ‘n Fun the pace is like a Sunday ice cream social. People are less rushed and you’ll find that you have more time to talk with the top people that run aviation’s finest organizations.

Sporty's Hal Shevers
A case in point was my conversation at Sun ‘n Fun with Hal Shevers, who I like to think of as Mr. Sporty’s.  If you’re a pilot, you of course receive the Sporty’s catalog in the mail frequently, and are familiar with the mail order business he has built. Hal and I had a nice chat, and he also introduced me to Michael Wolf, who he's hired as the President of his company.  With the company now in good hands, Hal is able to devote more time to other pursuits.

For example he has founded Sporty’s Foundation, which funds two kinds of programs: those that encourage young people to become involved in aviation, and programs that educate pilots about air safety. In the past, Hal has funded the foundation entirely himself, but he has now opened the door for other people to donate to his foundation.  If you’ve been meaning to help give back to aviation, but weren’t sure how to select the best possible use of your money, consider making a donation to the Sporty's Foundation. Their team evaluates the possible uses for their funds, and you’ll be assured that your 100% of your donation will be passed through to have the greatest possible impact.

Hal is also enjoying flying the company jet on business. My understanding is that he flew at least three roundtrips between Ohio and Lakeland to bring Sporty’s personnel to Sun ‘n Fun. You can tell that Hal is having fun, I enjoyed our time together at Sun 'n Fun.

ASA's Mike Lorden
Speaking of the top brass, I talked with Mike Lorden, who runs ASA, which is undoubtedly the largest distributor of aviation books and supplies. What I like about ASA is that virtually every time someone mentions the company to me, the very next thing they say about it is "and the people there are so nice." A culture like that can only be driven from the top down, I'm sure Mike deserves a lot of credit for the high praise that ASA consistently receives.

After talking for awhile, Mike whipped out a new product they invented called Hoodwink. It's a new time of view limit device for pilots to wear when practicing flying solely with reference to instruments. As you may know, many traditional hoods fail to block a pilots view through the lower portion of the side window. This small view of the ground defeats part of the value of training on instruments. It also leaves pilots somewhat in shock when they first encounter real IFR and they no longer have that comforting view out of the side window.

Hoodwink should solve that problem with a side panel that drops down further, blocking more of a pilots view to the side. Knowing that any good salesman worth his salt would demonstrate his product, I asked Mike to put on a Hoodwink so that readers could see what it looks like. As you can see from the picture, not only does Hoodwink look like it works great, but Mike was still in great spirits even after standing on his feet for several long days working the ASA booth. Mike, keep up the great work!

Mutt Muffs for your Mutt...or Purebread Flying Companion
I have to admit that one thing I always look for at big shows like Sun 'n Fun is something that's just a little fun and out of the mainstream to share with my readers. I quickly found it in Mutt Muffs. The concept is simple and to the point. Dogs are people too. Well maybe that wasn't exactly the point, but rather that they too can benefit from ear protection when flying in a noisy cockpit. Naturally I had to take a picture of their trained working dog demonstrating the Mutt Muffs.

Even more fun with talking with the two attractive ladies staffing the booth. With a nose for a good story, I doggedly pursued the tail, er tale behind this intriguing product. As you might expect, it was a good one. The lady pilot who invented the Muffs told me that the initial prototype she developed didn't work right, so she contracted professional engineering talent to design the Mutt Muffs you can buy today. Interestingly, the first time she test flew the Mutt Muffs on her dog Cooper, he shook them off during the flight. However, he never did it again on any subsequent flights. Apparently this is not an uncommon story among Mutt Muff users. Apparently some dogs shake them off the first time and then discover, doggonit (the canine equivalent of Eureka), it just got a whole lot noisier...guess I better leave those things on next time if I want to hear myself think! If you take your dog flying with you, consider protecting their ears too.

Air Show at Sun 'n Fun
Never one to miss a good segue, I should mention that the Thunderbirds were hot-dogging it up all week. It's been years since I've watched them and they didn't disappoint. I shot dozens of photos of them, and you can find them on my www.maxtrescott.com blog. Just look for the "Photos" section in the lower right corner of the home page. It's little wonder that they are such a wonderful recruiting tool for the Air Force. Nothing gives you a better understanding of the term "shock and awe" than to listen to them roar directly overhead at ear splitting volume. It made me glad that they're on our side, and that I wasn't an enemy on the ground listening to them.

Their maneuvers are spectacular, and I only wish that my camera could keep up for displays like their bomb burst. If you've never seen the Thunderbirds, or one of the other military service demonstration teams perform, you need to add it to your "bucket list."

I've always been a fan of the Twin Beech or Beechcraft Model 18, first flown in 1937 with it's huge radial engines and tailwheel configuration. Perhaps it's because of a comment I read years ago by a columnist in Flying magazine about the romance of watching an old Beech 18 land and seeing "old men and dogs" emerge from it. I'm guessing it was Gordon Baxter who wrote that--email me if you know for sure.

What I had never seen, prior to this trip to Sun 'n Fun, was a Twin Beech flying an aerobatic routine that was in some ways reminiscent of watching Bob Hoover perform at air shows in his twine-engine Shrike Commander. If you've seen a Beech 18 performing, it had to be this one, as I learned it's the only one in the world that performs aerobatics. Again, you'll find more photos of this performance at www.maxtrescott.com.

Since this is a safety journal, I should mention that these shows are put on by trained professionals, and that you "should not try this at home." Sadly, I read recently of a Baron pilot that was inspired by a previous performance of this Beech 18 and on two occasions decide to try to emulate its performance in his Baron. In the first case, the pilot in right seat told him not to do it--which shows how important it is to speak up whenever a pilot you're flying with says "Watch this," which are two of the most deadly words in aviation. The second time the Baron pilot decided to do it, no one spoke up and the pilot killed everyone on board when he attempted to roll the Baron--a maneuver for which the aircraft is not certified. This is prima facia evidence that, as a pilot, you should fly as you were trained and not invent novel ways to maneuver your airplane.

Light Sport Mall and Cessna
The LSA Mall for Light Sport Aircraft was located next to the main gate at Sun 'n Fun, so hopefully many potential new pilots stopped to gaze at the many models on display. As I mentioned in a recent blog article, one show attendee told me that they'd spoken to a flight schools that has trained a number of people for the Sport Pilot certificate, and that on average they're requiring only 26 hours of flight training. That's remarkable when you consider that the average Private license in the U.S. requires around 70 hours of flight time--and probably even more in large metros areas like where I teach.

Apparently, they claimed that they could train pilots with so few hours because the LSA aircraft they were using were so much easier to fly then non-LSA aircraft. I have to admit I'm skeptical that after 100 years of airplane design, someone has just figured out how to make an aircraft much easier to land. I think we'll have to wait until more accident data is gathered before we'll know whether this claim is true. The annals of aircraft design history are full of "easier to fly" aircraft that had accident rates that were no better and in some cases were worse than that of other aircraft. I hope it's true in this case, but admit that I'm skeptical of the claim.

Cessna now has its own permanent display site at Sun 'n Fun, and I discovered while hanging out in their building that it's one of the cooler spots on the field (the temperature is also a little lower). I shot this picture from the adjacent FAA building after my "rooftop interview" for the FAA's TV network.

As you can see, Cessna had most of their product line on display, from the Cessna Citation and C182 in the foreground, the future Skycatcher 162 LSA aircraft in the middle, and a pair of Cessna 400's (formerly Columbia 400's) beyond it, and finally a Citation Mustang (left) and Caravan (right) in the distance. There's also a Cessna T206 on display, but it's behind the building with just the tail number visible.

Cessna recently announced that the Garmin G1000 is now available in the Caravan, so you can now move up through the product line--from a Cessna 172 trainer to the Cessna Mustang--while using essentially the same avionics. That must be a first in history, and one from which pilots will benefit as they move up to more advanced aircraft.

AOPA on the Job
AOPA had a strong presence at Sun 'n Fun throughout the week with their "big yellow tent," with an AOPA Town Meeting hosted by Phil Boyer on Thursday night, and through safety presentations given in the FAA Forums building by people like Bruce Landsberg and J.J. Greenway of AOPA's Air Safety Foundation. Friday was "AOPA day," and members were able to get $5 off the normal admission price to enter Sun 'n Fun. AOPA was also surveying pilots about what they feel should be the top priorities for AOPA going forward. I blogged about Sun 'n Fun during and after the show, and you can read more the AOPA survey on my blog.

We often think of AOPA for their outstanding work in advocacy on behalf of general aviation, and Phil gave an update on the status of the FAA authorization bill that was then stalled in the Senate. Just last week, AOPA announced a break in the logjam and of an agreement to advance a bill without user fees, and I covered this good news in a recent blog posting.

For the thousands of you planning to win this year's AOPA sweepstakes plane, you were able to get an up close and in person view of your newly refurbished, glass panel equipped, 1976 Archer. In case you weren't able to make it to Sun 'n Fun, I've enclosed a picture of the current state of our new front panel. Most striking of course is the replacement of the Attitude Indicator and Heading Indicator with an Aspen Avionics glass display. This truly innovative device brings some of the most important features of glass cockpit aircraft to older airplanes for a fraction of the cost. I think this device will be a hot seller, and whomever wins the Archer early next year will love this new feature.

Just as the Mercury girl in the TV commercials says to "Put Mercury on your list," you need to put Sun 'n Fun on your list for next year. Put April 21-26 on your calendar and plan to look me up when you get there. I'll be there soaking up the sun as I have for the last few years. See you then.

Recent posts from Max Trescott on General Aviation blog
Max Trescott, 2008 National CFI of the Year
I was flattered recently to receive a shirt in the mail, which is pictured here. You'll notice that it says 2008 National CFI of the Year. Oddly, it also has my name on it. Wow. There's not much I can say, which most people know is unusual for me. Except perhaps thank you. For more of the details on this amazing honor, here's the press release.

Anyone who knows me knows I've been passionate about aviation my whole life. Passion is wonderful to experience. There's nothing better than throwing yourself wholehearted into something--anything--that you really enjoy. The time flies by quickly and pleasantly. I'm very lucky that my work--both as an author, publisher and flight instructor--keeps me thoroughly immersed in aviation and in contact with...

You can read the rest of this post at Max Trescott on General Aviation blog

ADS-B NextGen Mandate:Time is Running out on Your Comments
There's always a marriage of sorts between pilots and Air Traffic Control, and final vows are about to be exchanged for the FAA’s NextGen Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The proposal mandates ADS-B equipment in all aircraft by 2020, but the deadline for comments is just two weeks away, so now is the time for you to carefully read this prenuptial agreement.
Read my full analysis of the FAA's ADS-B proposal's impact up General Aviation at Max Trescott on General Aviation blog and a copy of the comments that I subsequently filed with the FAA at Max Trescott's ADS-B Rulemaking Comments

Very Light Jet (VLJ) Accidents
Are they Different and Do Pilots Need Specialized Training
Nothing has captured the imagination of aviators and would-be-aviators like the emergence of the Very Light Jet. Not since the pre-commercial jet era of the 1950’s—when a Bonanza was still nearly the speed of an airliner—has one been able to buy a “low cost” private aircraft that rivals the speed of the airlines. Finally being shipped in significant numbers, these aircraft are offering up some answers to hotly debated questions about the kind of accidents they will have, and whether a separate VLJ rating and/or formal mentoring should be required. A tale of two accidents offers some insight into the debates.

Before we get into the accidents, it’s worth mentioning that the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations does not define the term “Very Light Jet.” According to Wikipedia.org, a VLJ is “by convention, a small jet aircraft approved for single-pilot operation, seating 4-8 people, with a maximum take-off weight of under 10,000 pounds (4,540 kg). They are lighter than what is commonly termed business jets.”

Currently, only two VLJs are certificated and flying. The Cessna Mustang started shipping in December, 2006, and there are currently 66 aircraft registered on the FAA database. Eclipse Aviation started shipping its Eclipse 500 at about the same time and more than 160 of them are registered. A search of the NTSB.gov accident database finds only three accidents or incidents for these aircraft, two involving Eclipse and one involving the Mustang which we discuss below.

On April 19, 2008, about 1010 Pacific daylight time, a Cessna 510 Citation Mustang, sustained substantial damage following the pilot's intentional ground loop maneuver during the landing roll on runway 24 at McClellan-Palomar Airport, Carlsbad, California. Runway 24 has an available landing distance of 4,600 feet, and the aircraft came to a rest at the very end of the runway, just before it goes down a sharp embankment. According to the NTSB report,

The airplane crossed the runway threshold configured with the wing flaps fully extended [30 degrees] and flying about 15 knots faster than his predetermined landing speed; the pilot had previously calculated a Vref speed of 87 knots. From looking at the airspeed indicator, he noted that the airplane was fast for landing but thought the runway would be long enough to accommodate the likely delayed touchdown. As the airplane progressed down the runway he approached the small uphill slope that was located around the middle. The airplane approached the apex of the sloping runway and the pilot began to clearly distinguish where the runway surface ended, which was sooner than he had anticipated.

The touchdown occurred far down the runway surface, past the middle location. The pilot realized that despite his braking attempts and extension of speed brakes, the airplane was going to continue off the runway surface over a small downsloping cliff at the end. He determined that he would not be able to abort the landing due to the airplane's diminished groundspeed and elected to perform a 180-degree course reversal by rapidly turning the control yoke. The airplane ground looped, coming to rest in a dirt area south of the runway; the main landing gear collapsed and the flaps folded under the wings.

A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector spoke with a controller that was in contact with the pilot during the accident sequence. She observed the airplane approaching runway 24 and noted that it appeared to be quite high in altitude. In a radio transmission she queried, "do you think you can make it" to which the pilot replied "yes." The airplane then touched down on the runway past taxiway A4 and subsequently ground looped.

At the time of the accident the weather was overcast at 2,700 feet and the winds were 130 at 8 knots. Thus the aircraft landed with a tailwind component of about 3 knots.

While the proximate cause of the accident—landing at too high an airspeed and perhaps being too high on approach—seems obvious, the events leading up to the accident bear review. The single pilot flying the plane is the president of a company and he started the day with a 16 minute flight from Stockton, CA to Lincoln Park, CA to pick up passengers. He departed Lincoln Park at 0854 and was cleared to FL350 on his IFR flight plan.

Later in the flight, as the plane crossed over the Avenal VOR on the SADDE6 STAR, the pilot noted in the NTSB report that while passing through 30,000 feet,
the right [co-pilot's] Primary Flight Display (PFD) began to flicker. About 5 minutes later, as the airplane continued to descend through 28,000 feet msl, the left PFD flashed an alert indicating that the autopilot had disconnected. The pilot immediately felt the disengagement of the autopilot from what he described as the heavy control forces on the control yoke that he had to exert to fly the airplane. He additionally noted that the autopilot activation light was not illuminated, further confirming that the system had disengaged. Shortly thereafter, the pilot discovered that the electric pitch trim [located on the control yoke] was not operational. After establishing that the pitch trim was not functional, he ultimately began using the trim wheel located on the center console, which operated normally.

The pilot reported the autopilot failure to ATC and continued to fly the airplane by hand. As controllers vectored the pilot to the ILS runway 24 approach, the airplane entered IMC conditions at 5000 feet. On approach, the Mustang broke out of the clouds at 2,600 feet and the pilot notified the controller that he would make a visual approach to the runway. The NTSB report notes that the pilot reported (to whom is unclear): that he was overwhelmed with the electrical failures and fatigued from maneuvering the airplane by hand for such a long duration (which he approximated was around 45 minutes).

Some of the obvious factors that may have directly contributed to this accident were:
--Airspeed 15 knots above Vref landing speed
--aircraft high on approach
--aircraft touched more than half way down runway
--3 knot tailwind
--failure to initiate a timely go-around

Other factors that may have contributed include:
--stress and fatigue from managing equipment failures
--single pilot operation (no co-pilot to assist)

Removing even just one of these factors, such as the aircraft being 15 knots too fast or being high on approach might have totally changed the outcome of this flight. One factor for sure would have prevented this accident: a timely initiated go-around.

Years ago, whenever I considered making a go-around, it wasn't always clear to me whether one was required. This uncertainty delayed some go-around decisions, which may be what happened in this accident. That uncertainty totally disappeared when I heard the best piece of advice every written about go-around decision making. It is: The time to initiate a go-around is when you first think that perhaps you should perform one.

Were any of the factors in this accident unique to VLJs? No, certainly not. Would any additional requirements from the FAA for training in VLJs have affected this accident? Again, probably not. Would having a two-pilot crew on board have affected the outcome? Possibly.

In VLJ Training Best Practices Discussion, published by Robert B. Barnes Associates, Inc., a jet air charter pilot commented: “Two-pilot crews enhance safety and reduce risk. If an emergency situation occurs in heavy IMC conditions or at night or both, it allows one pilot to fly the airplane and the other to read checklists.”

Second Accident--Same Runway
The tale of our second accident involved most of the same factors as the first accident and it began on the same runway at the same airport. It involved a heavier business jet, not a VLJ, and sadly the outcome was much worse.

Two years earlier, ATC cleared a Cessna Citation for the ILS 24 approach and, like the prior accident, when the crew had the runway in sight they executed a visual approach in VFR conditions. Like our earlier accident, the winds favored the opposite runway and the plane landed with a six knot tailwind component. Quoting from the NTSB report,

During the approach sequence, the captain maintained an airspeed that was approximately 30 knots higher than the correct airspeed for the aircraft's weight, resulting in the aircraft touching down about 1,500 feet further down the runway than normal, and much faster than normal. The captain then delayed the initiation of a go-around until the first officer asked if they were going around.

Although the aircraft lifted off the runway surface prior to departing the paved overrun during the delayed go-around it impacted a localizer antenna platform, whose highest non-frangible structure was located approximately 304 feet past the end of the runway, and approximately two feet lower than the terrain at the departure end of the runway. The aircraft continued airborne as it flew over downsloping terrain for about 400 more feet before colliding with the terrain and a commercial storage building that was located at an elevation approximately 80 feet lower than the terrain at the end of the runway. The localizer antenna platform was located outside of the designated runway safety area, and met all applicable FAA siting requirements.

All four people aboard the aircraft were killed. Note that ALL of the obvious factors we listed above were also involved in this accident, namely:
--Airspeed above Vref landing speed
--aircraft high on approach
--aircraft touched more than half way down runway
--failure to initiate a timely go-around

These two accidents, one involving a VJL and one involving a heavier jet, were virtually identical in all respects except the outcome. A TIMELY go-around would have turned both accidents into a non-event. In the former case, the pilot decided it was too late to make a go-around and ground looped the Mustang to keep it on the runway. In the latter case, the pilot initiated a go-around too late and paid the ultimate price.

Oddly, why the first pilot decided not to initiate a go-around and the second pilot did decide to initiate a go-around, may have turned on the difference in the wording of questions put to them as they made their decisions. Some studies have shown that children have a bias to answer “Yes” to yes/no questions. I’m unaware of similar studies in adults, however, I have read of a technique that some salesmen use that involves asking their customers a series of questions that will produce a yes answer, with final question being something like “Would you like to buy my product.”

In the first case, the Mustang pilot was asked by the controller, "Do you think you can make it?" to which the pilot replied “Yes” and continued with the landing. Had she instead asked “Would you like to make a go around,” the pilot might have replied yes and avoided the accident.

Note that in the second accident, the co-pilot asked  “if they were going around” and the pilot answered in the affirmative by initiating a go-around. Perhaps the co-pilot was being deferential to the pilot and delayed asking the question. Had he asked the same question a few seconds earlier, the outcome might have been entirely different.

India kicking U.S. pilots out of their National airlines
Foreign Pilots Helping India with their Pilot Shortage to be Shown the Door
For U.S. pilots that have taken advantage of the pilot shortage overseas and have been rewarded with high salaries, though admittedly far from home, there are rain clouds gathering on the horizon. Last week the Economic Times of India announced that the "Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has advised all scheduled, non-scheduled and general aviation operators to submit their plan to phase out foreign pilots and replace them by trained Indian pilots" within five years. How's that for nice treatment of pilots from the U.S. and other countries that have helped India during their pilot shortage?

The Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Praful Patel, said "various scheduled airlines have engaged 944 foreign pilots in order to bridge the gap between demand and availability of pilots. The government has also taken various steps to reduce the gap between demand and supply of skilled Indian pilots. These include conditionally increasing the age-limit to 65 years for pilots, upgradation and modernisation of training infrastructure of the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Akademi to enhance training capacity from 40 to 100 pilots per year."

You can bet that India is training a lot more than 100 pilots per year at flight schools in the U.S. Kicking U.S. and other foreign pilots out of their airline jobs seems an odd way to thank the U.S. for it's help during India's pilot shortage. ALPA and the other airline organizations should be pushing the FAA to ask their colleagues in India to rescind this ridiculous order. Tell me what you think and I'll post the responses. I won't bias you with my thoughts on an appropriate reaction.

Oddly, it was just in December, 2007 that the Times of India reported that "aviation minister Praful Patel admitted that the government was concerned at the lack of manpower in the directorate and 'that steps were being taken to address this issue.'" The article continues "'We are in the process of looking for trained personnel for DGCA,' said Praful Patel. The focus is on finding officials for air safety and technical sides." So apparently the DGCA is looking to hire more bureaucrats as they throw foreign pilots out of their jobs. If you'd like to respond to the DGCA directly, you can find their email address here.

Changing Airline Hiring Picture
Get Some Glass Experience Before the Interview
One of the great things about Sun 'n Fun and other large air shows is being able to talk with the large number who pass through the NAFI (National Association of Flight Instructors) tent. One young Florida based CFI told me that he'd just had his airline interview. During the interview, he was asked first about his glass cockpit experience before he was asked about his total time and multi-engine experience. Now that’s a change!

Fortunately, he had experience in a G1000-equipped aircraft--and a copy of my Max Trescott's G1000 Glass Cockpit Handbook. According to him, the airline asked first about glass experience because a number of the pilots they’ve hired had difficulty learning the Flight Management System (FMS) during simulator training. Thus, that airline now gives preference to candidates with glass cockpit experience.

The good news is that he was hired and given a starting date. The bad news is that his starting date has been pushed out at least once. What with the recent trouble at the airlines--bankruptcies and potential mergers--one can't help but wonder whether we're at another inflection point in airline hiring trends. Demand for airline pilots has been so strong in the last two years--particularly at the Regional Airlines--that hiring minimums have dropped to in some cases just a few hundred hours, down from 700 to 1000 hours only 18 months ago. If you find that shocking, consider that airlines in India and China have routinely been taking their pilots--trained in the U.S. and with only 250 hours of total experience--and plunking them into the right seats of 737's and similar equipment used by their domestic airlines. So while it may be a new phenomena for us, it's not new in other parts of the world.

That's probably about to change in the U.S. Now that Alan Greenspan has actually uttered the "R" word--recession--it wouldn't be surprising to see U.S. airline hiring slow and hiring minimums start to rise again. It's a cycle that we've seen throughout history for airlines, though the hiring minimums appear to have reached new lows this time. That's probably not bad, as it will help flight schools to retain flight instructors and for the instructors to become better teachers before they move on. How bad has it been? A Master CFI friend of mine that runs a flight school in Kentucky recently wrote that "At our flight school, we have trained, hired, and lost an average of four instructors every month for a year. In May 2007 we lost our entire CFI staff in one week. We sometimes feel that we spend more time and energy training staff instructors than customers." Ouch! That can't be good for the industry.

Upcoming Events

April 25 & 26 – San Diego – Intro to the G1000 (iFLY)

May 17 – Flying Companions Seminar 8AM - 5 PM at West Valley Flying Club – PAO $65 To Register: www.santaclaravalley99s.org/companions/

May 30 & 31 – SNA – Intro to the G1000 (iFLY)

June 13 & 14 – SMO  – Intro to the G1000 (iFLY)

June 27 & 28  – CRQ – Intro to the G1000 (iFLY)

Pilot Safety News
© 2008 by Max Trescott
Master CFI & FAASTeam Member
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