Archive for February, 2009

It’s Safer than driving a Car – Not!

Friday, February 27th, 2009

One of the oldest and most incorrect sayings in GA is that flying light aircraft is safer than driving. By every statistical measure we can come up with to make the comparison, flying is much riskier. Years ago, ASF attempted to match annual mileage of passenger cars to that of light aircraft. The best estimate was that automobiles had seven times as many accidents but as for fatalities, GA was seven times worse. At some point, we may attempt the comparison again but it’s not easy.

When the question comes up, I can usually baffle the audience with some physics that points out that there is often much less structure surrounding the occupants in aircraft, we are typically going three to eight times faster at impact and then there is that third dimension thing. How would automobile fatalties compare if you took a Yugo ( remember them? ), got it up to about 90 mph and drove it off a 2-3 story building? It’s rough but serves the point.

The final and perhaps most important aspect is of course – you. Fly prudently and probably, with no statistical validation possible, light GA flight can approach or exceed the safety record of cars. Don’t tell people flying light aircraft is safer than driving – it’s about on par with motorcycles. Just buckle up in both cases and make sure that if something goes wrong, it wasn’t something you did or didn’t do. The odds, both in the air and on the ground, improve tremendously!

Tail Stall?

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

It’s always (or never) too early to speculate on accident causes before NTSB comes out with a final report. The buzz on the Continental Q-400 crash in Buffalo, NY sure looks like icing and possibly tail plane icing.

What makes this plausible is that everything was going well until the gear and flaps were deployed. The gear probably isn’t much of an issue ( and you need it to land) but the flaps change the airflow/loading over the tail and that can upset the applecart. ASF has more detail on this in both the Aircraft Icing safety advisor and in the Weather Wise: Precipitation and Icing online course.

It’s way too early to predict all of the nuances that may have led to this tragedy but it will come out in due course. In my prior life at Cessna Aircraft Company, when flying FIKI equipped aircraft that had significant contamination, we were advised to go find a loooong runway, use no flaps and add about 20 knots to the final approach speed. The other point that has been made by many of you in past blogs is to not stay in the ice even with a big strong approved aircraft.

Gas Geo Map

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

New ASF Fuel Geo Map

Some airplane pilots just can’t wait to savor the joys of soaring. One way is by trading high octane fuel for low octane air by running a tank or all tanks dry, thus becoming glider pilots. The FAA takes a dim view of gliding without a certificate, especially when it involves an off-airport landing.

The Air Safety Foundation is continuing our fuel awareness campaign to make sure that all pilots have the Golden Hour of reserve. How will you explain a fuel shortfall to your family, your friends, your former aircraft insurance agent?

We also invite you to check out ASF’s two Pilot Safety Announcements and forward them to your friends who are prone to skimp a little.

It’s amazing that most of the fuel accidents occur within five miles of an airport which means almost everyone almost makes it. Very few miss by a lot.

We plan to add other accident geo maps during the year and would appreciate your thoughts.