Dear Pilots and Aviation Enthusiasts,
Shooting in the dark
Each year, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation publishes a statistical report of general aviation accidents. This is called the Nall Report. It's named after Joseph P. Nall, an NTSB Board member who died as a passenger in an airplane crash in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1989.
Regrettably, based upon the paucity of new information contained in each annual Nall Report, I'm likely one of only a dozen or so people who actually read the 2010 edition cover-to-cover. I did so this year in the vain hope of discovering something other than the positive spin on our chronic fatal accident rate that its editors and statisticians so dutifully apply year after year. Instead, it was the same findings, rationales, and defense of an industry that should be ashamed of its abhorrent safety record. Thus, no surprises were found.
If it is the GA industry's intent to convince the non-flying community that general aviation is safer than it really is - and that our safety record is improving with each passing year, the Nall Report rates an 'A plus'.
On the other hand, the Nall Report's usefulness in helping to formulate improvements in the way we train pilots, in uncovering the mysteries behind our chronic fatal accident rate, and in providing guidance to us veteran pilots on how best to optimize our proficiency, it deserves little more than a 'D minus'.
The faulty denominator
Hold the e-mail. I'll admit that the problem is not entirely in the hands of the Nall Report editors and statisticians. Much of the problem lies in the inherent weaknesses of the data they use to compile the report. The most serious offender in this regard is the FAA's "estimate" of annual aircraft hours flown.
This "estimate" is derived from a simple FAA-administered survey of a sampling of GA pilots - about one percent of the total pilot population. Curiously, I suspect that only active pilots actually complete and return these survey forms. The pilots who have curtailed or stopped flying likely never return their survey forms.
Given the fact that this "estimate" forms the basis of all reported accident RATE information, we can reasonably conclude that the Nall Report is little more than an "estimate" of what is happening in the real world of general aviation. This makes for a nifty way to spin the data whichever way one likes.
Equally problematic is the fact that the "estimate" of annual hours flown is non-aircraft type specific. For example, we really have no clue whether single engine operations are actually more precarious than multi-engine operations. Nor do we have an objective basis to determine if glass cockpits afford us any greater safety advantage than steam-gauge aircraft.
Does anybody really know, based upon actual accident data - by aircraft type, if Cirrus SR22 aircraft are more prone to fatal accidents than Cessna 206s? Does anybody really care? Those who pay insurance premiums might like to know.
"One size fits all" flight training curriculum
Since we lack any objectively derived accident data based upon aircraft type, make, or model, those of us in the flight training business are constrained to offer a "one size fits all" training curricula. On the other hand, if low wing singles are more prone to fatal spin encounters than high wing aircraft, based upon actual data, then training curricula should be adjusted accordingly.
Are we seeing more landing accidents in glass composite aircraft like the Cessna Corvalis and Cirrus SR22 than we are in metal aircraft? If so, let's tailor the training curriculum accordingly.
Do flight schools using Diamond DA20 aircraft have a better safety record, again based upon actual data, than schools using Cessna 172s?
Curiously, we've been seeing a big spike in the number of fatal accidents involving homebuilt aircraft. From this, can we conclude that homebuilt aircraft are inherently more dangerous than production aircraft? This big spike could be attributed to a huge increase in the number of homebuilt aircraft hours flown. This would certainly spike the numbers.
Right now, of course, there is no way to correlate the number of homebuilt aircraft accidents with the actual number of homebuilt aircraft hours flown. Thus, any current criticism of the homebuilding industry is entirely without merit.
The Sport Pilot debate
If anybody suggests to you that the Sport Pilot program is either safer or more risky than conventional flying, don't bother engaging in the debate. Why?
The reason is, nobody - including the FAA and the NTSB - really knows. Sure, we know how many Light Sport fatalities there are in a given period, but we have no idea how many Light Sport hours are actually flown. Thus, it is impossible to develop any reliable data on the true risks of Sport Pilot flying.
Imagine that. We create an entirely new kind of flying, design and build a whole new classification of aircraft, authorize a new pilot certificate, allow pilots to fly without an FAA medical, and we have no objective way to measure relative safety of the Sport Pilot program itself! Only the federal government would allow such a debacle to occur.
The aging fleet dilemma
We're beginning to be increasingly concerned about the aging of the GA fleet. Do aircraft with 7,000 or more hours total time suffer a higher fatal accident rate than, say, aircraft with 3,000 or fewer hours total time? Right now, nobody knows for certain.
To be fair, we cannot lump all GA aircraft types, makes, and models in this age-related safety determination. If Beech builds a more durable aircraft than Piper or Cessna, the accident data should bear that out. Similarly, insurance premiums should reflect that finding.
Training reform efforts
The FAA recently announced the formation of a new Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) that will review everything from the way we train pilots to the way that we retain our pilot certificates. "Everything is on the table," said Babbitt. "This effort is part of a five-year plan for transforming GA safety."
Everything is on the table, alright. Trouble is, nobody knows where the table is. How can we reform an industry that has no true handle on the extent of its problem? How will the FAA know if its reform efforts are working when we have no valid way of measuring the extent of the problem in the first place? This is yet another example of a big waste of government time and money.
Banish the naysayers
"Whoa," say the naysayers. "We can't possibly gather that kind of data. The costs would be prohibitive. The burden on the industry would be staggering. Besides, it's nobody's business how much I fly my airplane."
Predictably, AOPA would be standing at the head of the line protesting any such privacy infringement on its member pilots. The halls of Congress would be blanketed with form letters of opposition artfully crafted by AOPA for signing and mailing by its 400,000 member pilots. In the end, another positive step forward in improving our chronic fatal accident rate would be successfully thwarted.
In truth, gathering objective annual hours flown by aircraft type, make, and model would be a snap. Since every GA aircraft must go through an annual inspection or, in the case of home built aircraft, annual condition inspections, it would be a quick and easy step to record and submit to the FAA the aircraft type, make, model, year of manufacture, and number of hours each inspected aircraft has flown in the previous 12 months (or whatever period covered since the last inspection). Bingo, that's it.
Curiously, the federal budget required to implement this procedure would likely be less than the money it spends sending out and analyzing pilot surveys.
As for an infringement of pilot privacy, we pilots waive any such right to privacy whenever we sign a medical history form each time we see the aviation medical examiner. Recall, we report the number of hours we have flown in the past 90 days. We also waive such right to privacy whenever we sign an application for a new pilot rating or certificate.
Could this be a conspiracy?
Perhaps the reason we're not collecting actual aircraft usage data is due to fear on the part of the FAA that the total number of GA hours flown is substantially BELOW current estimates? Maybe GA is already standing on "death's door" and nobody really wants to have that fact objectively revealed. Well, sad as this may be, we deserve to know the truth. And once the truth is known, we can take REAL steps to fix it.
It's time we get real
We live in a brave new world. It's a world where fatal airplane accidents should no longer be occurring. Sure, there will be the occasional screw up or dumb pilot trick that results in a fatality. Let's say that those type of accidents account for about 50 a year. But what about the remaining 200 or so 'fatals' each year? Why are they occurring?
There is currently no way of knowing for certain what impact ANY changes we make in the GA system have or will have on our fatal accident rate. None, nothing, nada. We're only guessing - and that ain't no way to run an airline.
So, naysayers, and that includes you, AOPA, let's get behind this effort to objectively quantify our annual hours flown by aircraft type, make and model. When you do so and this system is finally implemented, the Nall Report will finally offer genuine benefit to the industry. Until then, it's simply another way to spend member pilot dollars in a totally non-effective way.
Flying has risks. Choose wisely,
Bob Miller, CFII, ATP
Icing is here with a vegeance
It's that time of year again for those in the northern hemisphere as I discovered on a recent flight from Buffalo, NY, into the New York City area.
While passing through 9,000 feet on the climb, my windscreen suddenly iced over obliterating all forward vision. The radar pod, suspended off of the right wing, was encased in several inches of ice. Worst of all, my rate of climb quickly dropped from 1,300 feet per minute to about 200 feet per minute with both the prop control and throttle to the wall.
The accompanying photo (left) shows ice remaining on the wings after reaching clear air above and cycling the wing de-icing boots.
I had encountered a curious meteorological phenomenon that had neither been predicted nor reported by pilots passing through this area earlier in the day. Fortunately for me, the tops were just above - at 11,000 feet.
Part of the plan
Intelligent winter flying requires us all to always be within minutes of a "golden backdoor." Either up or down, we need to know where either VFR or above-freezing-temperatures can be reached before a worst-case icing event occurs. For me, it was about 2,000 feet above.
Winter flying, even in sub-freezing clouds, can be as safe as operating during the balmy days of July - IF we know what we're doing. Basic to all of this is having a solid gold "backdoor" to escape through whenever airframe icing is encountered.
A birds-eye view of a perfect landing
We aviators have always enjoyed a love/hate relationship with birds. On the "hate" side, birds represent a substantial collision risk. On the "love" side, birds can teach us a great deal about stabilized approaches and landings.
To illustrate, click HERE.
Thanks to Sue Wonderling of Broken Arrow Airport in NW Pennsylvania for sharing this site with us.
Bad decisions continue to plague us pilots
Few things command the attention of a pilot as quickly as a fire while aloft. When it occurs, immediate decisive action is required. Any delay in this regard is likely to result in tragedy.
Take the case of the pilot of a PIPER PA-32R-301T Saratoga with three passengers aboard. It was a leisurely, fair weather flight down the Florida penninsula from Gainesville to Ft. Lauderdale. Life was likely good for the four people aboard when the unexpected happened as they approached their destination.
"Mayday - Mayday"
The pilot pressed the mike button and issued a "mayday" call. "We have a fire in the engine!"
The controller replied with a suggestion that likely was this pilot's undoing. He said, "Are you going to try and make it to Executive A? That's the closest to you sir." He was referring to the Ft Lauderdale Executive Airport about 24 miles away.
The pilot said, "We'd like to get to exec," while noting that he had smoke in the cockpit. He added that he thought he still had power. He then said, "We can see some fire coming off the nose." He then said, "We're getting more smoke in the cockpit. We're thinking we might have to land on runway (unintelligible) highway two seven here."
The controller acknowledged the pilot's transmission and requested confirmation of the pilot's decision to land on highway 27, to which the pilot responded, "Yes, yes." The controller then requested the number of souls onboard the airplane. Radar data indicated the airplane was at an altitude of 2,700 feet.
The pilot then said, "We're on fire, we're on fire." There were no further transmissions from the pilot.
No amount of maneuvering skills could save this day!
This tragic accident is a classic example of countless similar events where we pilots make the wrong decision at the wrong time and then pay the ultimate price. Unfortunately, in the process, we take innocent passengers with us.
In this instance, a fire aloft requires immediate pilot action. If it is an engine fire, as it was in this case, the first action is to begin an immediate descent, followed simultaneously with shutting off the fuel supply to the engine.
While individual airplane flight manuals may differ in the precise sequences of things to be done, basic principles apply. First, the sooner we can get a burning airplane on the ground, the better our chances of survival. Second, we know that fires require fuel. Thus, by turning off the fuel supply to the engine, we stand a better chance of extinguishing the fire before things get far worse - like reaching the fuel tanks.
In this case, the fire was caused by a small crack in a fuel injection line serving the number 5 cylinder. The resultant fire eventually reached the main fuel line serving the engine which, in turn, created a much larger fire. This, combined with burning rubber and oil, produced a substantial amount of smoke that quickly filled the cockpit. This likely incapacitated the pilot. From that point forward, all was lost.
What was going through this pilot's mind?
This is pure speculation, but we can likely assume that the pilot underestimated the seriousness of flames he observed coming from the engine compartment. Related to this, perhaps he was considering the risks of an off-field landing in the Florida Everglades versus trying to reach an airport 24 miles away. Unfortunately, he made the wrong choice.
Properly trained pilots, skilled in aeronautical decision making (ADM), know what to do NOW when a fire occurs aloft.
NTSB Probable Cause Finding:
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
Fatigue failure of the No. 5 engine cylinder fuel supply line, which resulted in an engine compartment fire. Also causal was the pilot's failure to immediately secure the engine/perform a forced landing after discovery of the fire, which resulted in the pilot's loss of control of the airplane.
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Sport pilots beware - your non-FAA medical can bite you!
Back in 2004 the FAA and industry got together and came up with a new way to help stimulate general aviation flying. Called the Sport Pilot Program, it cut in half the training requirements to pilot a two-seat airplane having a gross takeoff weight of not more than 1,320 pounds. It also eliminated the requirement to undergo an FAA medical examination.
In place of the FAA medical, the FAA left many folks with the notion that as long as they held a valid drivers license and had not been denied an FAA medical certificate in the past, they could qualify as sport pilots.
What many of us missed in the new sport pilot rule was 14CFR Part 61.303(b)(4) which says, "Not know or have reason to know of any medical condition that would make that person unable to operate a light-sport aircraft in a safe manner." This same regulatory language is found in 14CFR Part 61.53(a)(1) which addresses medical requirements to hold first, second, or third class medical certificate.
The part that bites
The word on the street for wannabe sport pilots is, don't take an FAA medical examination if you think you may not pass it. The part that bites is, if you know or have reason to believe that you cannot, in fact, pass an FAA medical, then you are NOT eligible for a Sport Pilot certificate. Thus, if you have diabetes, declining vision or hearing, a cardiac stent or pacemaker, angina, or a host of any other conditions that would deny you an FAA medical, even though you have never been denied an FAA medical and you hold a valid U.S. drivers license, you may NOT be eligible for a Sport Pilot certificate.
The fact that you KNEW you could not pass the FAA medical examination places you in the category of knowing that you have a medical condition that would make you unable to operate a light sport aircraft in a safe manner.
So who, but me, would ever know?
Like so many other FAA rules and regulations, the issue may never come up until there is an incident or accident. Let's say, for example, that sport pilot suffers a fatal accident while at the controls of his airplane. The NTSB accident investigation reveals that the pilot recently had cardiac surgery or had diabetes, or any other known condition that would have prevented him from passing an FAA medical. Such a find would have ruled his Sport Pilot certificate invalid.
With no valid Sport Pilot certificate, his insurance would likely be void. Resultant civil suits could render his family penniless. Are these reasonable risks to assume for failure to comply with the sport pilot rule?
Instrument Pilot Refresher Webinar beginning Tuesday, November 1st
Bob Miller will be conducting an 8-week instrument pilot ground/refresher webinar course beginning Tuesday, November 1, from 7pm to 9pm EST (0000Z to 0200Z).
This fast-paced course is designed for the serious instrument pilot who wants to review all the critical components of the complex world of IFR flight. This "live" interactive course will include the organization and structure of the national airspace system as it pertains to the instrument pilot.
It will dig deeply into the nuances of terminal instrument procedures, low and high altitude en route charts, arrival and departure procedures, MVAs, and the complexities of precision RNAV/GPS approach procedures. It take a close look at what lies in the future including ADS-B and our NextGen national airspace system.
The course will unlock the mysteries of IFR communications and how to "sweet talk" the system to obtain shortcuts to your destination. It will take a close look at IFR flight risks with special emphasis on defensive icing and embedded thunderstorm avoidance strategies.
This is NOT your traditional basic instrument practical test prep course. Instead, this 8-week webinar program takes you into the real world of instrument flight where busy "take-no-prisoner" controllers issue rapid-fire clearances in the world's most congested airspace. This is a world seldom seen by timid instrument flight instructors and fair weather-only instrument pilots.
The first session of this 8-week course is free. If you like the first session, you can register for the remaining seven seven sessions.
What if you have to miss a session or two? No problem. Each session is recorded. All participants will be given a web link that can be used anytime to access any missed session in their entirety. What could be easier?
For more information and to register, click HERE.
Developing a culture of safety
One of the distinct advantages of being both an often outspoken critic of the state of general aviation AND an active flight instructor operating a growing FAA approved Part 141 flight school is that I'm never very far from reality. Unlike my commentating counterparts who sit high in their executive suites, far from the day-to-day challenges of actually teaching people how to fly, I get to see the world from both theory and reality viewpoints.
A recent case in point
There has been lots of discussion lately about how to reduce our chronic GA fatal accident rate. On the one side, we have folks saying that "we're about as good as we can get without additional onerous regulation." Others like SAFE (Society of Aviation and Flight Educators) board member and former FAA general aviation manager, Bob Wright, say that we need a "change of the culture" by GA pilots regarding flight safety.
Like most things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle of these two points of view.
I came face-to-face with the essence of this debate recently while on a training flight with a customer wrapping up his commercial certificate. We were on a cross-country flight in a complex aircraft and I was helping my customer fulfill the instrument training requirements of the certificate.
The forecast weather along our route of flight and at our planned destination was VFR, thus we had to do our best to simulate IFR conditions using a view limiting device. In preparation for departure, we discovered that the VOR check required for IFR navigation was out of date. Similarly, the navigation data card for our panel mounted GPS was one cycle behind. Not to worry, however, our entire planned flight was to be conducted in VFR conditions.
Still and all, we took an extra couple of minutes and taxied over to a VOR checkpoint at our departure airport and completed the required VOR check. Unfortunately, however, we did not have an up-to-date data card, so we opted to use ground navigation aids for our planned flight.
Things began to turn sour
Shortly after takeoff it became evident that we could not complete our flight under visual flight rules as we had planned. A quickly moving cold front sliding down from Canada had apparently picked up both momentum and steam (literally) over Lake Erie. The ceilings were lowering and our destination airport suddenly went from VFR down to instrument approach minimums. In fact, the entire eastern portion of Ohio, Western Pennsylvania, and Western New York region became shrouded with unpredicted scud.
We had been caught in one of nature's unpredictable weather phenomena that, tragically, catches far too many pilots by surprise. It was time for "Plan B."
Our destination airport ATIS was reporting winds out of the north at 12 to 15 knots. We were advised to expect the GPS Runway 36 approach. Since our aircraft's GPS unit was one cycle out of date, we opted for the only other available approach to the airport, the ILS to Runway 18.
Fortunately, we had completed our 30-day VOR check earlier that same day, so we could legally fly the ILS approach. The only problem was, given the stiff winds out of the north, we would have to fly the ILS Runway 18 approach with a circle to land to Runway 36.
While we were prepared to fly the ILS Runway 18 with a circle to land to Runway 36, the ceiling suddenly dropped below the published circling minimums. Our only remaining "legal" option was to attempt a downwind landing on Runway 18 following the ILS approach, but with a 12 to 15 knot tailwind, that did not appear prudent.
What would you have done?
We ruled out the GPS approach to Runway 36 because our GPS database was out of date. We ruled out the ILS approach to Runway 18 because of excessive tailwinds. What would you have done?
Sure - go to our planned alternate. Well, since all of our pre-flight planning assured us of a VFR flight all the way, we didn't have a planned alternate! So we started fishing around.
The nearest suitable airport with above-minimums had a VOR approach aligned with the winds. We opted for that knowing that our VOR radios were deemed usable based upon our VOR check earlier in the day. We shot the approach, landed safely, and had a delightful lunch at the airport restaurant.
All's well that ends well
The lessons in all of this are as follows:
1. Even the best pre-flight planning sometimes fails to predict what we might actually encounter during the flight.
2. Think through all of the available "what ifs" when examining the possible alternative options.
3. Don't allow the urgency of the moment to give license to ignore the rules.
4. Think twice before leaving the ground with expired GPS data cards. You might need them when you least expect it.
5. Never ignore the importance of completing the 30-day VOR checks.
6. Always have an alternate airport in mind even when operating in planned VFR conditions.
We GA pilots need to think like airline dispatchers. We need to evaluate ALL possible eventualities that may occur along our planned route of flight. We need to continually perform the "what if" analysis of every possible situation, then be ready with a suitable "Plan B", or "Plan C" if that becomes necessary.
It's when we start REACTING rather than acting in accordance with a well thought-out plan that we get ourselves into trouble.
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Playing "Cat 'n Mouse" with weight and balance - KILLS!
Okay, truth be told, many of us have broken the bonds of earth weighing a couple of pounds overweight. No harm, no foul, right? But where do you draw the line? One pound? Ten pounds? One hundred pounds?
Most of us know excess weight requires a longer takeoff roll and results in a slower climb rate. What many do not know is that it isn't the excess weight that compromises safe flight; it is WHERE this excess weight is placed in the airplane.
Take the case of the RV-4 pilot and his passenger friend who managed to liftoff 250 pounds over the 1,500 pound maximum gross takeoff weight recommended by the manufacturer. What they apparently did not consider was the fact that this excess weight created a center of gravity that was 1/4 inch aft of the rear loading envelope limit.
All was apparently going well until the pilot began an aerobatic maneuver. According to the NTSB report, the aircraft rolled, stalled, then entered a spin. Both occupants were killed on impact.
NTSB Probable Cause Finding:
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot's failure to maintain adequate airspeed which resulted in an inadvertent stall/spin. Contributing to the accident was the overweight and aft-center-of-gravity condition of the airplane at takeoff.
So what happened?
A quick reference to FAA Advisory Circular 61-67C, quoted below, provides excellent insight as to what likely happened in this tragic flight.
"As the CG is moved aft, the amount of elevator deflection needed to stall the airplane at a given load factor will be reduced. An increased AOA will be achieved with less elevator control force. This could make the entry into inadvertent stalls easier, and during the subsequent recovery, it would be easier to generate higher load factors due to the reduced elevator control forces. Although the distribution of weight has the most direct effect on stability, increased gross weight can also have an effect on an aircraft's flight characteristics, regardless of CG position. As the weight of an airplane is increased, the stall speed increases. The increased weight requires a higher AOA to produce additional lift to support the weight."
While the adverse effect of excess weight may be minimal or barely noticeable in straight and level flight, it can have a profound effect when we reach the boundaries of the normal operating envelope. As addressed in AC 61-67C, the stall speed increases as weight increases.
Again, this has little effect in straight and level flight where the angle of attack is substantially below the critical angle of attack where a stall occurs. It's only when we either slow the aircraft with a resultant increase in angle of attack or we pitch up abruptly that the high stalling speed comes into play.
Similarly, the lighter control forces that accompany an aft-CG may be barely noticeable in normal straight and level flight; they can be profoundly significant when approaching the limits of the normal operating envelope. In short, a slight excess in control pressure can create a sudden aerodynamic stall.
One or both of these events are the likely culprits in this fatal accident.
It's Up to You to Fly Away - "Santa Fe, New Mexico"
Join with John and Connie Bouck as they share their adventuresome getaway weekends and extended journeys to romantic places around the globe. Whether in their Cessna 210 or Cessna 180 on floats, the Boucks make the best of general aviation. You can too!
Click HEREfor your trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico
Aircraft log entries: Optional or required?
This has to go down in GA accident history as one of those bizarre aircraft mechanical failures. The sad part is, it could have been prevented had an earlier prop strike been properly recorded in the aircraft records.
On March 15, 2010, a Lancair IV-P lost engine power during cruise flight near Hilton Head, South Carolina. According to the NTSB report, the pilot first noticed a vibration in the instrument panel followed by oil spraying on the windshield. He immediately contacted air traffic control and declared an emergency. He was advised that Hilton Head Airport (HXD), Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, was 15 miles from his location.
As he turned towards Hilton Head Island, the windshield became completely covered and obscured with dark brown colored oil, leaving no forward visibility. There was a violent shake of the airplane, followed by a loud "bang". The pilot stated he also heard what sounded like an engine over-speed just after the violent shaking.
The pilot was able to make an emergency landing on the beach. While surviving the landing, a pedestrian walking along the beach was struck by the aircraft and was killed.
The reason for loss of power in flight resulted from the sudden separation of the propeller from the engine. The cause of the separation was ultimately due to stress failures in the face of the crankshaft resulting from a previously unreported propeller strike. In this regard, crash investigators found a stress fracture that propagated through the full thickness of the wall of the crankshaft, and extended around approximately 50 percent of the crankshaft circumference. The remaining portion of the fracture face contained a rough texture consistent with overstress separation.
The curious part of all of this was there was no record of a prop strike entry in the engine logbooks. Somewhere in the engine's history, a former owner had incurred a prop strike and apparently never logged it. That, unfortunately was the first link in a long accident chain that resulted in a fatality.
We pilots are resourceful souls. We fix or resolve most problems before they become serious issues. But we must remember the old adage that says, "The job is not complete until the paperwork is finished." This, of course, applies to all forms of aircraft maintenance and repairs.
Unfortunately, many of us have a great deal of uncompleted work. That is, we've performed or had somebody else perform work on our airplanes that was never logged. As in the above described accident, such omissions can have serious practical as well as legal consequences.
FAR 43.9 - Content, Form, and Disposition of Maintenance Records
(a) Maintenance record entries. Except as provided in paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section, each person who maintains, performs preventive maintenance, rebuilds, or alters an aircraft, airframe, aircraft engine, propeller, appliance, or component part shall make an entry in the maintenance record of that equipment containing the following information:
(1) A description (or reference to data acceptable to the Administrator) of work performed.
(2) The date of completion of the work performed.
(3) The name of the person performing the work if other than the person specified in paragraph (a)(4) of this section.
(4) If the work performed on the aircraft, airframe, aircraft engine, propeller, appliance, or component part has been performed satisfactorily, the signature, certificate number, and kind of certificate held by the person approving the work. The signature constitutes the approval for return to service only for the work performed.
Now a word from our trusted sponsors
They say that there is nothing as useless to the pilot as the runway behind us and the fuel remaining in the truck. We might also conclude that truth in advertising is as rare as above-freezing days in Buffalo in February!
Nonetheless, advertising pays for much of what we read and do in aviation, from magazines, to membership organizations, and even publications like Over the Airwaves.
Unlike other publications, however, we accept advertising support ONLY from those organizations with whom we have done business and for whom we can wholeheartedly endorse their products or services. Thus, if you trust what OTA has to say, you can certainly trust those who advertise in this publication.
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Need confidential professional counseling?
Whether it is family issue, job related stress, or a possible alcohol or drug related FAA enforcement matter, occasionally we pilots need a trusted professional we can talk with in absolute confidence. I've known, worked, and flown with Dr. Ken Condrell for over 25 years. He's not only a consummate pilot and RV-9 builder, his professional reputation is without equal. Don't wait until it is too late. Give his office a call at 716-634-7220.
Need medical transportation? Want to serve as a volunteer pilot?
People in need of medical transportation have lots of resources to choose from, but none are quite so compassionate as at Wings Flights of Hope. This non-profit organization is headquartered in Buffalo, NY. Its founder is my good friend and aviation colleague, Joe DeMarco. Joe and his wife, Diane, are deeply committed to making every flight of every patient to every medical treatment facility a genuine act of kindness. YOU can help Wings Flights of Hope by both your dollars and, more importantly, your volunteering as a Wings pilot. For more information, call 866-61-WINGS.
"We're going to look at the curriculum, the materials, and what are we testing. Everything is on the table. Training at all levels will be included in the review."
-- Randy Babbitt, FAA Administrator
In his recent bestselling book titled, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference, Malcolm Gladwell defines the tipping point as "the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point." He says, for example, that "Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread like viruses do."
Lots of examples of this are all around us. The hula hoop craze of the 1960s, the huge popularity and sales of Hush Puppies shoes in the mid-1990s, and the precipitous drop in the New York City crime rate after 1990 are just a few of thousands of ideas that suddenly took hold and changed the world around us.
Alas, awareness and recognition of our chronic fatal GA accident rate and the critical need for change in-flight training that Over the Airwaves has been preaching for the past eight years is rapidly reaching its "tipping point" as well. We're finally reaching widespread recognition within the industry that each fatal accident pounds another nail in the proverbial GA coffin. We're recognizing that the general public, for the most part, fear little airplanes. We're finally getting the picture that each of our 250 to 300 fatal crashes turns another community off toward small airplane flying for several weeks at a time. Multiply that experience by 250 to 300 cities, towns, villages and, in about 10 years, every single American citizen, all 300 million of us, gets turned off toward little airplanes. Tragic!
Most importantly, we're seeing that the negative publicity that comes from our unrelenting fatal accident rate creates a public relations problem that not even AOPA's million-dollar PR spin machine can reverse. Left unresolved, GA in its present form will be extinct before our current industry leaders retire.
There has long been a solution to our chronic fatal accident problem. Like a sleeping bear, this solution has been buried in a cave, fearing that any move it makes will be trounced on by GA's powerful alphabet organizations like EAA, AOPA, NBAA, and GAMA. Guess what, the big bear is beginning to stir. Curiously, if the powerful alphabet organizations don't like it, they can take solace in the fact that they at least caused it - through their refusal to fix the problem themselves.
The big bear, of course, is the FAA. Apparently, having enough of this absurd situation, the FAA is going directly to the rule book and, whether we like it or not, the rules by which we train and fly will likely be changing.
In this regard, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt announced recently that the FAA is creating a new Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) that will review everything from the way we train pilots to the way that we retain our pilot certificates. "Everything is on the table," said Babbitt. "This effort is part of a five-year plan for transforming GA safety."
Notice that this is a rulemaking committee, not an advisory committee, nor a culture committee. It's a rulemaking committee which means that the rules by which we train and fly will be reviewed and acted upon.
It's about time
While credit is deserved by industry groups like SAFE (Society of Aviation and Flight Educators) for trying to solve our chronic fatal accident rate by changing the culture of us pilots, the simple truth is, it cannot work by itself. We pilots are an independent lot. Many of us are risk-takers by nature. Others of us are free-spirits who cherish our right to the skies. We do not take lightly to "do-gooders" like AOPA, EAA, and SAFE who would prefer that we change the way we fly. In short, changing pilot culture to achieve improved flight safety, alone, will not work.
Over the Airwaves applauds Randy Babbitt for having the courage to step up to the plate and say that enough is enough. We applaud the fact that the FAA might actually stop issuing flight instructor certificates to post-adolescents who have never flown solo or to instrument instructors who have never been inside a cloud. We applaud the fact that the FAA may require that we GA pilots, just like every other profession known to man, participate in some form of recurrent annual training.
Let's face it, the pilot rule book is deeply flawed. It contains antiquated regulations that should have gone away with the four-course radio range and the ADF. Much of this rule book was developed around the training needs of the Army Air Corps back in 1941 and hasn't changed since. Simply stated, it's flat-out broken and desperately needs to be fixed. Our chronic, unrelenting fatal accident rate proves it.
So AOPA, EAA, NBAA, and GAMA - the FAA has taken the ball and is beginning to run with it. You can stick that down your turf-protecting pipes and smoke it!
Flying has risks. Choose wisely,
Bob Miller, CFII, ATP
Over the Airwaves
I would like to thank Barry McCollom, from Kerrville, TX, and Allen Murgatroyd, from Auckland, New Zealand, for their valuable help in producing OTA each month. They have been working together with me to tidy-up some of the grammatical rough edges and produce a truly world class journal. Both Barry and Allen are passionate about accuracy in media presentations, especially when it comes to sharing our knowledge with others. They, like many of you, always look forward to learning something new from a flawless presentation of any subject material, especially if it is about flying and aeronautical subjects.
Disclaimer: Material contained in this e-newsletter is for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as directive, doctrinal, or instructive. Readers should consult with their flight schools, certificated flight instructors, Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) and/or appropriate FAA publications including the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs), the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM), and applicable FAA Advisory Circulars (ACs) for specific guidance relative to any information or before employing any recommendations contained in this e-publication. Further, nothing in this e-publication is intended to be inconsistent with or contrary to any official FAA rule or regulation, nor should such material be interpreted or construed as such. Over the Airwaves is intended exclusively for the purpose of promoting and enhancing heightened reader awareness of flight safety issues. This website is not a substitute for competent flight instruction. All information in this site is provided "as is," with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy, adequacy, timeliness of the information contained in, or linked to, or of the results obtained from the use of this information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including, but not limited to warranties of performance, merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. In no event will the authors, publishers, their related partnerships or corporations, or the partners, agents or employees thereof be liable to you or anyone else for any decision made or action taken in reliance on the information in this page or for any consequential, special or similar damages, even if advised of the possibility of such damages. Certain links in this page connect to other Web sites maintained by third parties over whom the authors have no control. The authors make no representations as to the accuracy or any other aspect of information contained in other Web sites.