It’s a moderately common problem, averaging more than 20 fatal accidents per year. Epidemic? No, but particularly deadly. Roughly 90 percent of these entanglements result in fatalities. The average for all GA accidents is about 20 percent. This is because of CFIT or UFIT—controlled or uncontrolled flight into terrain.
Some of these accidents are extremely high profile, such as John Kennedy Jr’s loss of control near Nantucket. A dark night over a large expanse of water means being on the gauges. That particular accident took a lot of explaining to the media, the public, and the regulators as to why we shouldn’t require one to be on an IFR flight plan after dark, as so many other countries do. The point that we made, on camera, was that ALL of the other thousand or so flights that were operating that night all over these United States made it to their destinations safely.
Aviation magazines, blogs (this one included), and the Air Safety Institute’s Pilot Safety Announcements and Accident Case Studies have all constantly reminded pilots to not get in over their heads. That drum beat continues, and it was something that we also explained to the media and the public: Don’t do clouds if you haven’t been trained and are not proficient flying in clouds. JFK Jr. was part way through his IFR training, but hadn’t quite gotten to the necessary level.
Education, assessment of risk, and understanding what to do and what not to do are all part of a new program that the Air Safety Institute has published, and it runs on iPads—something that some of ASI’s older courses do not always do. (Editorial comment: I mean why standardize on a basic format when it is so much more entertaining to let consumers fumble through with various pieces of equipment—did I mention GPS navigators?) ASI’s Weather Wise: VFR into IMC online course prepares pilots for the real world by providing basic weather knowledge required to anticipate poor weather conditions, explaining common weather scenarios that can trap unsuspecting pilots, and helping pilots understand the complexity of decision making and pilot judgment and how these can be compromised. Our thanks to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service for helping to fund the program and to the pilot donors of the AOPA Foundation.
Good Thanksgiving! Apparently last week’s blog on turkey flights that resulted in catastrophe had the desired effect. Clearly one of my best blogs because, according to early reports, there were very few accidents last weekend. We always warn the correlation does NOT imply causality but in this case I’ll shamelessly take the credit.