NTSB Confirms Buzz Job

May 20, 2009 by Bruce Landsberg

The preliminary report on a Baron A55 that crashed after making three low passes over a work party in Minden, Nevada on May 9th confirmed it was a buzz. On the last pass the aircraft was observed at 100-300 feet agl when the pilot pulled abruptly into a steep nose up attitude and rolled left. You know what happened next.

What makes this so much worse is that four passengers were killed while the PIC attempted to display his prowess. This is remarkably similar to another Baron accident that happened a few years back where the pilot attempted some aerobatics with a plane full and with the same deadly results.

This quote from that article is a short survey that pilots should offer their passengers before engaging in such aerial stupidity.

“Try this on your passengers the next time you take to the sky: “OK, gang, I’m about to try a maneuver that I haven’t practiced and have had no training in. The aircraft is prohibited from this type of maneuver, and it’s never been tested by the manufacturer.” (Depending on the type of maneuver, you can add, “We’re going to fly really close to the ground and well below legal limits.”) Then say, “There’s also a good chance that we could all die if I mess this up, but if I pull it off it will be way cool! So, are you in?” Wanna bet what the reaction would be?”

The audience that reads this blog, takes online courses, and goes to seminars isn’t the problem so do us all a favor – please forward these links to all the young (most of them don’t make it to middle age) impressionable aces of the base. The smart ones will start to get it and the others will, as the attached Pilot Safety Announcement says, ” Keep General Aviation firmly in the public eye.”

Real Aviation Heroes

School Daze

If anyone has any PRACTICAL suggestions on how to constructively address this – we’d sure like to hear it.

Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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  • Leo

    The question came up at the last safety seminar I attended….. How do we reach out to these careless pilots who pay little or no attention to safe practices.

    One idea was to implement mandatory refresher training sessions at defined intervals even after receiver your pilot’s licence, for all categories of piloting.
    Of course there were some who opposed and there were several ‘buts’.

    Until every pilot can adopt an attitude with safe intentions, there will always be cases like the Baron.

  • sam ferguson

    Interestingly enough, I can still recall a day early in my training, when I was departing an uncontrolled airport (OCF) and unbekownest to me a Baron (which refused to acknowledge my radio report) took off on 18 while I was departing 36. My flight instructor, who was in another 172, alerted me to the fact. Of course the Baron was airborne way before encountering me (6900feet) and veered quickly to the east. All I know is that the last part of his ID was “JJ”, and of course I havent seen him since, and I hope I dont see him again. Being an uncontrolled field, with heavy private jet traffic, OCF still gets buzzed by pilots who have severe “issues of insecurity”. These pilots, in my opinion, have no place in our profession . They are dangerous to not only themselves, but others around them. God help the souls that unwittingly go flying with them. They are a scourge to the public preception of our industry. They need to be identified and eliminated from flying. This business, if it is to survive, will need to suvive on its own merit: a better more efficient means of transportation for some of us. a profession for some of us. It will not survive on thrill seekers, or playtime activities, or $200 hamburgers.

  • Ted

    I can understand how upsetting and frustrating careless or intentionally reckless pilots can be when the safety of bystanders are involved. However, more regulation, licensing requirements, government involvement, and therefore fees and taxes are not the answer. Compare these incidents to driving a car. I was run over by a ’71 Lincoln Continental on my motorcycle by a guy making a right turn from the left turn lane. Rear ended by a guy that just got out of surgery on his right knee at 55 MPH because he was on pain killers and couldn’t move his leg to the brake. I have at least 15 to 20 more horror stories. The auto industry is not going away because people die. If you can pass the private test, you know the difference between right and wrong. Unfortunately, if you leave the house, you are forced to interact with people in the general population which will increase your chances of having an accident. Some will make mistakes, some will intentionally endanger others unnecessarily. NOTHING will stop this. As an individual, it is your responsibility to decide if you want to take the chance that someone else could cause an accident with you. I decide to fly, drive, ride bikes, and other dangerous activities. I do it as safely and intelligently as I possibly can. It’s life.
    Regulation beyond the basics, fees, taxes are a drag on the sport (for me a sport). These things still won’t stop reckless incidents. YOU are responsible for your life. I want to keep the responsibility for my life in my hands, even if someone else takes it while I’m living it a free man. Freedom has a price.

  • George Wilhelmsen

    Another senseless, avoidable tragedy.

    What more can you say? You can intercede, try to talk sense into pilots like this, but the bottom line is that there is no real mechanism for people to turn in these “bad apples” that drive up everyone’s insurance rates, and put general aviation in a bad light.

    It is dreadful. It needs to stop.

  • http://www.rotaryaviation.com Tracy Crook

    Just wanted to thank and agree with Ted for his well considered response. Stupidity can not be trained or legislated out of existence. Unfortunately the freedom to fly can.

  • sam ferguson

    I agree with Ted that regulation has a poor effect on changing peoples way of acting. More classes, more rules, and more forgiveness doesnt seem to make an impact. We seem to have this attitude that everyone has a right/freedom to do whatever they please. I think there is a difference between regulation and law and order: if a person is purposefully incompetent at a task that endangers someone elses life, they need to be stopped from being allowed to perform that task, whether its driving or flying. Feedom is fine until it encroaches on someone elses feedom/life. There is no purpose or reason to buzz fields. There is no purpose of reason to show off other than to display your naked insecurities, that do not belong in an airplane.As far as what george says, if we do not find a way to police ourselves, then someone else (agency) will. Of course there is one other answer, in that perhaps the economy will continue the way it is and all the use of airplanes will be for purpose only because economically it unrealistic to use a plane for fun/showing off. Certainly the Baron will be one of the first to be archived considering its purchase price and cost of operation.

  • Dean S. Engelhardt

    Young male pilots will sometimes show off to their girlfriends or family. Fact of life. Additional checkrides or similar will not solve the problem. I started teaching flying in 1965. In addition to the normal round of private, commercial, instrument, multiengine, and instructor, I taught floats, tailwheel, and aerobatics. One of the maneuvers that I included on private pilot training was spins (requiring parachutes). Given the availability of equipment and time, I included basic aerobatics. In two students, I gave them five basic aerobatic maneuvers at the very beginning of their flight training. This was an experiment to see what their skill level would be when they went for their private pilot license. They had zero problems with handling the aircraft in every situation they came in contact with. They also had less need to show off.

    One answer to this problem is for pilots to become familiar with aerobatics. Knowing how to do it in a suitable aircraft will enable a little red light to go on in the brain when trying it in an unsuitable aircraft. They will be better able to recognize their limits.

    Can a Baron be rolled safely? Yes – if you know how! As a movie stunt pilot, I’ve rolled aircraft as large as a DC-3. But for one without aerobatic training backed by considerable practice, the pilot may not recognize when he is getting into an unrecoverable situation.

    Many accidents can be avoided or the severity lessened with training that sometimes does not seem to apply. Take the DC-10 accident years ago in Iowa where about half survived the crash. With hydraulics gone, the dead-heading pilot was trying to keep the plane level with throttles only. It is fairly easy to do IF the pilot handling the throttles has tailwheel experience. Why? Because keeping a tailwheel airplane tracking smoothly down a runway requires early correction as the nose lines up with the centerline – not waiting until it is almost there before trying to stop it. Stuffing in rudder too late results in marginal control or a groundloop. Same thing with the DC-10. Did the dead-header have any tailwheel experience? I doubt it. In any case, I’ll bet the black box will show corrective throttle application being applied too late. Is it his fault? Not if he didn’t have the training. With the training, everyone might have survived, including running off the end of the runway.

    To further this comment, did you notice that the pilots of the two dead-stick airliner landings without casualties, the Canadian 767 into a dragstrip in 1974 and the Airbus into the Hudson river, were both glider pilots?

  • Don Mirisch

    Having commented awhile back on the earlier Baron fiasco, I am shaking my head yet again. As a CFI (and Baron flyer), I’ve learned that judgment is difficult (perhaps impossible) to teach. This pilot exhibited four out of the five FAA hazardous attitudes. If an instructor recognized this as an intractable personality issue, he or she would be obligated to suggest another line of work (or recreation). Unfortunately, this is sometimes not easily recognized or dealt with properly. As gatekeepers, we instructors must be vigilent and unafraid to use our own best judgment.

  • Cal Hassberger

    I feel compelled to write a response to Sam Ferguson’s 1st comment.
    I am a low time pilot (160 hours) and I have no intentions of making any type of career of flying. I simply enjoy flying. In the short time I have been flying, I have met so many other pilots who fly for pleasure only that I have to believe that collectively we add something to the general aviation industry. I don’t think it’s fair to discount our contribution or lump us into a group of irresponsible pilots.
    These stories of blatant disregard for safety shock and anger me as much as they would any seasoned veteran. I feel my training and strict adherance to good practices should earn me the respect of any other pilot, regardless of their stature. Please don’t associate these rogue flyers ( they haven’t earned the title pilot) with responsible recreation-only pilots.

  • Cary Alburn

    It is naive to believe that additional regulation will solve the problem of show-offs–and I agree that judgment can’t be taught. But there is a remedy. Errant pilots can be reported, by name if known, or by tail number, to the FSDO. Everyone is reluctant to “rat” on others–but in the name of safety, the mechanism is there, so use it! Then leave it to the FAA to institute a certificate action, which involves an investigation and possible suspension or revocation of the certificate.


  • Chris

    Regarding Dean Engelhardt’s comments above..

    I soloed in a Schweizer 2-33 (glider), then in an L-4 (military Cub), flew a Pitts for almost 20 years, taught aerobatics in a Stearman, towed gliders in a Pawnee, was a glider instructor, and have never stopped preaching to anyone that would listen the benefits of tailwheel and glider training.

    Having said that, it is ludicrous to suggest that an out of trim DC-10 flying with no flight controls whatsoever could have been flown better by someone with tailwheel experience.

    I am also a pilot for United Airlines, and have not only seen the internal data on that accident, but heard first hand what happened in the cockpit of UAL232 that day. Al Haynes, Denny Fitch and the rest of the crew somehow managed to get that airplane down, on a runway, in the touchdown zone, within a 1/2 wingspan of the centerline. This was done in an airplane which , in addition to having lost all flight controls and the number two engine, was significantly out of rig because of the damage to the vertical and horizontal stabilizers.

    The following is straight from the accident report:
    “For UAL 232, pilot-induced thrust variations were required to control the phugoid and the asymmetric rolling moments attributed to airframe damage, in addition to the maneuvers required for landing. The required maneuvers could be implemented, via thrust variations, with a delay of as much as 20 to 40 seconds. Thus, any thrust changes required for landing would have to be anticipated at least 20 to 40 seconds prior to touchdown, and any required changes within 20 to 40 seconds of landing could not be fully implemented… the Safety Board concludes that the damaged DC-10 airplane, although flyable, could not have been successfully landed on a runway with the loss of all hydraulic flight controls. The Safety Board believes that under the circumstances the UAL flightcrew performance was highly commendable and greatly exceeded reasonable expectations.”

    I’m really stunned and disappointed that someone would marginalize the actions of that crew.

    As an aside, Al Haynes’ account of this accident should be required reading for anyone who aspires to be a professional pilot.