It was a really bad day in Beverly Massachusetts on Saturday when the Chief Flight Instructor of Beverly Flight Center was fatally injured by a propeller. Early reports noted that Michael Costales – age 30, taxied into the run up area for runway 34 in a Piper Warrior with a student on board. He noticed that one of the Flight Center’s LSAs, also in the run up area with a CFI and student aboard, had an improperly secured canopy and went to assist. Tragically, he tangled with a prop.
Costales reportedly had been flying for 10 years and had about 2,700 hours. As noted in the 2009 Nall Report, there were 4 total prop/rotor strike accidents in 2008. Usually these accidents involve passengers who are not prop savvy either exiting or boarding aircraft with the engine running. Hand propping to start the engine also often leads to mishap especially on aircraft that weren’t designed for it.
Full disclosure: I’ve have boarded and exited aircraft with the engine running and it’s not good procedure – however expedient it may have seemed at the time. My speculation is that Mr. Costales was so concerned for the safety of the other aircraft and so focused on that, he forgot that engines were running
There were almost two certainly two common denominators in this accident – complacency and distraction. They are present in almost any kind of human mishap. When we spend a lot of time around aircraft we tend to get comfortable. Don’t! When we’re distracted it may be the nearest little alligator that has us for dinner not the big guy on the far side of the pond.
We need to look out for each other and that includes polite and respectful safety reminders when a potentially hazardous situation develops. Would a radio call have sufficed to alert the other pilot? Perhaps they had done that already. More details will be forthcoming but this young life was lost due a moment’s inattention
Sincere condolences to Mr. Costales’ family and friends, his students and to the Beverly flying community. Please beware Propellers – tell your friends !