Does it seem that GA has been a target lately? There have been some high profile accidents including a Beech Premier that crashed into a house in South Bend, Ind., and a Piper Cheyenne in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that apparently was attempting to return to the airport after a power failure and fell short.
Then ABC decided it was time to air a piece regarding spins that curiously had nothing to do with the accidents in question. The NTSB was also quoted, talking about GA being on the top 10 list when the number of GA fatalities is near an all-time low, and after it had dropped motorcycles from the list despite having 10 times the fatalities annually. Odd isn’t it?
With the two accidents noted above, it appears mechanical first cause is likely, but it’s a bit early for that. The pilots were doing everything they knew how to do—maybe it wasn’t perfectly executed. Perhaps it was. The ABC tie to dramatic spin footage is a stretch in relation to this story, or even to the total accident picture. Trying to tie this to a stall-spin outcome while the investigation is still in the early stages is not journalistically sound.
To reinforce a non-existent point, ABC stated that, “There are more private pilots in the air now.” It badly overstates reality. Would that it were so.
Let’s address stalls for a moment because it is an area of concern. The Private Pilot Practical Test Standards are clear on what every private pilot should be capable of demonstrating, including maneuvering in slow flight, power-off stalls, power-on stalls, and spin awareness. In 2011 there were 11 fatal stall-spin accidents—less than one per month; a safe year. Somehow that doesn’t seem like a systemic problem to me but more of an individual failing. But one can prove almost anything with selective choice of numbers. A truer picture is that on average, there are less than two fatal stall-spin accidents per month. When spread across millions of flights annually, it just isn’t the purported epidemic.
That said, can we do better? Of course! CFIs are required to teach high angle of attack operations to assure that the pilot has the appropriate level of awareness. This is checked by designated examiners. Spin and unusual attitude training is available for anyone who wants it from a professional instructor.
The Air Safety Institute has an excellent online course which should be required viewing for all pilots to be sure they understand AOA. (It’s currently in Flash format and slated to be updated at some point, so iPad users, take heart—but not quite yet.) There is plenty of water out there for the horses to drink!!!
To the aviation community: maintain the aircraft and flying skills well.
To the media and NTSB: could we be a bit more constructive in putting GA safety into perspective? GA accidents are big news because they happen relatively rarely. We’re working very hard to see that the numbers stay small, but please keep the “piling on” to a minimum.
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