Meeting the NTSB

August 25, 2011 by Bruce Landsberg

The Air Safety Institute has always had a solid working relationship with the NTSB. We depend on their investigations of GA accidents to provide, unfortunately, a steady feed to the ASI database. Annually, we do a deep dive into the data to produce the Joseph T. Nall Report which looks back a year to see where the problems are and where they are not. That helps us to decide where to invest our time and donor dollars to help GA pilots fly more safely.

Earlier this week, the vice chair of the NTSB, Chris Hart, and member, Dr. Earl Weener, spent the day at AOPA in Frederick reviewing ASI programs and discussing how we can enhance an already strong relationship. Both Chris and Earl are active GA pilots, flying a DA40 and a Bonanza A36 respectively. This is extremely helpful because both truly understand the nature of the challenges facing us.

As you may have heard, NTSB has put GA safety on its Most Wanted List. This is not something that you’ll find in Post Offices but rather on NTSB’s website and on the minds of many safety advocates. The list encompasses “The most critical transportation issues that need to be addressed to improve safety and save lives.”

Excerpting some thoughts from the Most Wanted List :  “Perhaps what is most distressing, is that the causes of GA accidents are almost always a repeat of the circumstances of previous accidents…but the best aircraft in the world will not prevent a crash if the pilot is not appropriately trained and prepared for conditions. GA pilots should take initial and recurrent training on the various weather information sources and learn what to do when they inadvertently encounter adverse weather. As aircraft become more sophisticated with glass cockpits, GA pilots need to be more than just familiar with the technology; they need to also understand how it can malfunction.”

We couldn’t agree more and think that targeted interventions will help. More regulation will not help, as member Hart and Weener acknowledged, since in almost every case there was some violation of the rules and not just in a technical sense. Decision-making continues to be problematic for some pilots and the Air Safety Institute has over 20 programs and products that directly address that. Every AOPA employee who flies company aircraft must have an annual proficiency check and participate in a safety program quarterly , either online or attend a live seminar.

Both Board members also understand that GA is not a monolithic activity, like the airlines, and thus a one-size-fits-all mentality just won’t work. In September’s AOPA Pilot we remind people that there are more differences than similarities between the airlines and GA.

Your safety and those of your passengers depend upon you and your mindset.

You might just have a chance to meet Chris and Earl at AOPA Summit in Hartford in September.

Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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  • Jacie Ann Crowell

    Great article Bruce! Thank you for writing it, and being aware. When I was training I was always asking too many questions according to my instructor. I went from person to person also trying to gleen some of their expertise. This way of training was the most expensive way to train, however it was how I needed to do it to get my questions answered. That led me to think that instructors were not willing to help me become a good pilot or that they themselves either did not know the answer either. My primary guy understood his limitations and was great friends with the late Bill Kershner so Bill was my ground guy who gave me ground on the phone. The three of us became quite a trio for a bit of time…..
    Bill knows his stuff and I am bless to have had enter into my training when he did. He sent me his books and would refer me to his drawings then tell me the story behind them. What does this have to do with flight training? EVERYTHING it taught me that instructors who remember what it was like when they first learned and have tons of experience and humility make the best instructors in the world. To let a student see your weaknesses then teach them how to deal with them and not feeling bad about yourself is the very best lesson a student can learn. It teaches CRM before a newbie knows what that is even about. It teaches humility; which should be on every flight and it teaches confidence.
    In closing both instructors made an interesting comment about the FAA changes regarding spin training and teaching it. Bill’s comments when he would make a reference to those days would be by saying “When a CFI rating WAS a rating”. Frank would simply not sign us off until we were proficient in spin recovery; he always told me “I am teaching you what I was taught even if the FAA tells us not to. It will save your life one day”.