As you’ve probably heard by now, GA is on the NTSB’s most wanted list. At AOPA Summit in Hartford this week, it will be a topic of discussion when I interview NTSB Vice Chair Chris Hart and member Earl Weener, both active GA pilots, on AOPA Live. The GA accident rate is flat and it is disproportionately high in the personal flight category relative to the estimated number of hours flown.
One solution that comes up regularly is that “of reaching the unreachables.” Unfortunately, that is a paradox or self-contradictory statement. For your consideration of the challenge, here is a informal review of a flight that took place last week at our home base of Frederick, a nontowered airport. The witness statement is from an Air Safety Institute staff member:
“Last evening at about 7:30, Bob and I were working late. At the time, there was a thunderstorm sitting more or less directly over the airport, producing fairly heavy rain (though not a great deal of wind) and a lot of lightning—there were multiple strikes on the field, within half a mile of AOPA. Bob was standing outside watching the storm, and I ran from my car to meet him….and probably 30 seconds later we heard an aircraft engine, and watched a Cessna 172 depart Rwy 30, climbing rather anemically off to the northwest…..We noted the time, and grabbed the radar image.”
There was a severe thunderstorm warning and convective Sigmet in effect and the C172 was NOT on an IFR flight plan according to FlightAware. Fatal accident chain was well under way. What part of thunderstorm, what part of cloud and rain (reduced visibility – IMC), what part of lightning strike did this pilot not understand? To be sure, the AWOS was reporting VFR conditions and it was looking better to the west. Does anyone remember the Jessica Dubroff accident?
- Was this done from ignorance – The pilot was unaware of the risk?
- Was this done from arrogance – I know the risk but I can handle it?
- Was this done from complacency – I’ve been in situations like this before?
One of the above or all of the above? How badly would “the mission” that this flight was surely on, have been impaired by delaying another 20 minutes to let the cell move off?
I’d sure like the benefit of his or her thought processes. There has to be some logic here — somewhere. Ignorance we can and should fix although my sense is the pilot knew the risk. The other two attributes are really difficult to change without significant interference to the freedom of flight . What do you think?