Our safety record this year is proving to be a bad year.
The year is still not over, and November has further added negatively to the accident count.
Officials confirmed a pilot and passenger died after their Zodiac 601crashed into a Heber-Overgaard home Friday night. The crash occurred near the Mogollon Airpark on the Overgaard side of the joint, unincorporated communities located along the Mogollon Rim off State Route 260 shortly before 5 p.m. Official sources stated that the victims had recently purchased the single-engine Zodiac 601.
The Navajo County Sheriff's Office identified the victims; both were residents of Florida. They were traveling from California back to their home in Florida. It's not clear whether they were intending to land at the airport for the night or were taking off when the crash occurred. A resident in the area returned home and saw their house had been struck by the airplane and then saw the aircraft on the ground.
The crash remained under investigation Saturday. The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were on the scene Saturday to process the plane crash and conduct the investigation into the circumstances of the crash. The Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigations was also on the scene assisting with the incident.
To date, the total count now stands at 8 fatal GA accidents and 17 fatalities, 12 pilots and 5 passengers. As far as I could ascertain, none of the pilots involved in any of the crashes were APA members; 8 were Arizona-based pilots (those pilots we are capable of reaching with our safety programs), and none (as far as I have been able to determine) were registered or participated in the WINGS program.
The irony of it all! The 2018 NALL REPORT from AOPA states that the GA national rate is trending downward, but not nearly as fast as we would like. Unfortunately, this year the Arizona numbers are reflecting just the opposite, with a spike in accidents.
2018 now has an accident rate almost 3 times the average fatal accident rate versus the last 3 years, and in fact, is on course to match the total number of accidents for the past three years!!!!
Let’s hope that the rest of 2018 remain accident free. Please fly safe!!
All of the 2018 fatal accidents will be discussed at GAARMS VIII coming up in March of 2019, exact date and location TBD. Watch for an announcement in our newsletter and on FAASAFETY.GOV, and we hope to see a lot of you there.
So, how safe is safe? How about four 9’s? That is a 99.99% safety record, or said a different way, 1 fatality for every 10,000 pilots, or 2.6 fatalities for our pilot community of 26,000. But it is really about how you apply that! Certainly NOT monthly! That would result in 2.6 pilots being killed every month. The 99.99% rate has to be applied against a yearly time frame, which would give us only 2.6 fatalities for the entire year. So that should to be our goal for 2019 – A 99.99% year, a 1 in 10,000 safety record, only 2.6 pilots being killed. However, there is still a problem with that –
Who wants to volunteer for those 2.6 positions???
OUR SAFETY RECORD SO FAR THIS YEAR IS 99.95%. While a “WOW, a 99.95% safety record” may sound good to many people, it is, in fact, a terrible figure! We had 12 pilot fatalities; that is NOT acceptable and that needs to change. The real challenge is how to improve that number. Setting a goal is easy; achieving that goal is hard!
Ironically, about 50% of the 2018 fatal accidents occurred with pilots trying to maintain and/or improve that record. They were out practicing takeoffs and landings, working on maintaining their proficiency and improving safety!! Two were stall/spin Loss of Control accidents and two appears to be CFIT, but those categories were the end result, not the cause.
Kudo’s Section -
Recently I called Prescott Flight Service with one of my students to teach her how to call and navigate the flight service automated telephone voice response system and to ascertain a preflight weather briefing. As usual, the phone was promptly answered. I prompted my student on how to provide the necessary information to the briefer in the most efficient manner, including the fact that she was a student pilot just learning how to do this. The FSS Specialist immediately recognized me since I have an account and a login, plus several N numbers listed on my account. He answered the phone by addressing me by name and asked which aircraft I was flying. After sorting out that the call was on my phone, but an instructional call for a student, he shifted into trainer mode. He did an outstanding job of not only providing the weather information, but went out of his way to ensure my student understood the information he was providing, and took extra time to explain what it all meant. It was, without a doubt, one of the best briefings I have heard in quite a while, and I took the time to call the facility manager to express that fact. The facility manager was quite pleased to get a real compliment; he usually only ever gets complaints, and thanked me for taking the time to pass that complement on. Even in real life, in today’s world, we, as human beings, do not do that nearly enough…
Pilot Reports – PIREPs – are just like compliments. Take the time to pass on a PIREP on the weather conditions you encountered, or are encountering, along your route of flight. National Weather Service loves them, Flight Service loves them, and the pilot behind you on the same route might just love them too. Everyone thinks PIREPs are just for bad weather things, but NOT TRUE. For example:
- A report of a smooth ride might just be the piece of information the National weather Service needs to preclude issuing or to cancel a AIRMET for possible turbulence;
- Two consecutive reports of light to moderate turbulence will be the piece of information the National weather Service needs to issue a AIRMET for possible turbulence;
- A report of light icing might just be the piece of information the National weather Service needs to issue an AIRMET for icing;
- A report of NO icing might just be the piece of information the National weather Service needs to preclude issuing or to cancel an AIRMET for icing;
- A tops report (and any icing information) on departure might just be the piece of information the pilot waiting for departure behind you needs to know to anticipate safely climbing thru the low cloud deck; and/or
- A report of wind shear/turbulence/speed fluctuations on approach to the airport might just be the piece of information the pilot behind you needs to know to anticipate safely flying the final approach into the airport.
And if someone does give you a compliment or provides you a piece of information that helps you anticipate potential issues, a “Thank You”, according to Ms. Manners, is not only appropriate, it is the polite and right thing to do.
So there I was… (part 2)
Like I said at the start of this story in last month’s issue, it was a beautiful Sunday morning, clear as a bell, calm winds, and with a forecast to get even nicer. Like most Sunday mornings at most airports, it was a great day to go fly off somewhere with the gang for breakfast.
BUT it was NOT going to be the best of days; it was only minutes from becoming potentially the worst of days!
0900. 3-mile final straight in to runway 18 at Freeway, with an erratic surging engine, threatening to quit at any moment. Kelly, my wife (and sometimes navigator) was just sitting there in the right seat, cool as a cucumber. Like Goldilocks, the three bears and the “just right” porridge, this approach had to be just right. Too high, and you run off the runway into the trees; too low and you have power lines 1 mile out on the final approach leg, Interstate 50 with lots of traffic maybe 100 feet from the end of the runway, and no clear area if you land short. (Think Navy carrier landing with engine issues and NO go-around possible!!) The game was on and I had no choice but to play.
0902. Meanwhile, over at the College Park Airport, Billy-Bob had just gotten off the phone with Flight Service after getting an updated preflight briefing. He learned there was a NOTAM about to go into effect creating an aerobatic box over the bay that would cause him to delay his flight to breakfast. The Blue Angels were about to launch out of Andrews Air Force Base and go out over the Chesapeake Bay to practice their flight show routine for an upcoming event at the Naval Academy. The NOTAM would be in effect about the time he would get to the bay; thus he made the decision to delay his departure until the NOTAM was about to expire. He would just be late for breakfast, or early for lunch! He then attempted to call me to let me know the plan. Needless to say, I did NOT answer his call. I was a little busy at the time. He planned to depart by 0920, arriving at the Eastern shore at 0930’ish, and working Baltimore approach, cruise on across the Chesapeake Bay right after the Blue Angels were done and the aerobatic box NOTAM expired.
0903. The die had been cast, all the players were in place, and the day’s events were about to play out…
At about the same time, Freeway airport received a phone call from a concerned citizen who just happened to live about 2 miles north of the Freeway airport about an airplane about to crash with a very bad sounding engine. The desk person calmly explained the aircraft was on approach to the airport and that everything was fine. He was confident. The front desk monitors the Unicom frequency, heard both me and Harry talking, and just knew we had it under control. (Don’t ya just love an optimist!)
0904. The Speed Monster came gliding in over the power lines, over the interstate, and with a gentle slip, dropped in to runway 18 about 100 feet past the numbers with one of the best landings of my life. Kelly was impressed. I was relieved! The audience on the deck outside the flight school office comprised every student on the premises, every flight instructor, the office folks and a local police officer who, as a student pilot, just happened to be there that morning enjoying the ambiance and a morning coffee. I think they all had score cards. I think I got all 9.8’s or better, but I am not sure. I rolled out to the end, and, for whatever the reason, the Monster kept running and I was able to taxi all the way back, past the audience on the deck, to where the taxiway turned into the maintenance hangar. I could see people pointing to my airplane, as if they could see something; possibly see what was wrong with my airplane. Fortunately, no one came running out with fire extinguishers, so that was comforting. By then, I was pretty sure I knew what was wrong with the Monster, and I knew right where I was going to look. I shut down the engine, but left the master on and the electric fuel pump on, climbed out of the airplane and went right under the engine to the fuel strainer. YUP, there it was! Fuel was just pouring out of the fuel strainer, and I knew why. The previous week, working with the mechanics at the airport, we had pulled the fuel strainer, cleaned it, replaced the filter, and, after several frustrating tries, finally got it back together, exactly as before, or so we thought. A full power run up convinced us we had succeeded in getting it back together exactly as before. Today’s flight had proven otherwise! The fuel strainer had been on the airplane since 1973. The filter is changed every annual, but after all those years, the metal bowl had taken a “set,” that is, it was “warped” in place. It had to be positioned exactly as before or it would not seal correctly. It had taken us several tries to get it back exactly in the same correct position, but quite obvious by now, we had not! The “warped” bowl, now positioned incorrectly, cracked, failed, and fuel was pouring out of the fuel strainer. Why the Monster‘s engine did not quit remains a mystery, but the Monster and I have a pact: I take great care of him, and he takes great care of me. That pact has not been broken to this day!
1030. After enjoying a great breakfast at the Easton, MD airport restaurant, Billy-Bob and son departed back to College Park. Failing to re-check with Flight Service, Billy-bob was about to start his odyssey for the day…
1045. Cruising over the Chesapeake Bay at 4500 feet, enjoying the spectacular view, Billy-Bob was suddenly startled by a passing jet, perpendicular to his route of flight, with a smoke trail! He immediately recognized it as an F-18, in the beautiful Blue Angel’s paint scheme. “Yikes”, he thought, “Are they out here again?” He was correct in his assessment. Lo and behold, there was another NOTAM out for the aerobatic box. The Angel’s had returned and he was about to bust into their box! He immediately made a steep 180 and got the heck out of there, called Baltimore Approach for flight following, dropped down to 3000 feet as advised, and flew on back to College Park under the box. “Whew”, he said, “That was close”! No harm, no foul!
Monday morning 0700. Billy-Bob’s world comes crashing down! On his way into work, listening to the morning news, he hears that a general aviation airplane had interrupted the Blue Angels training session Sunday morning by penetrating their aerobatic box out over the Chesapeake Bay. “OMG,” thought Billy-Bob, “How am I ever going to explain this to my boss? I will be humiliated! I will be fired! I’ll be on CNN!” Well, to the average person, your boss would probably say “So what?” Well sure, but if your boss just happens to be the FAA administrator, well, YES, he cares!!!!! You see, both of us worked for the FAA at the time, in, well, let’s just say fairly high level positions. Billy-Bob rushed into his office, grabbed up the morning collection of the previous day’s accidents, incidents and other things of interest, like pilot deviations, and went searching for his N number. “Hmmm, not there,” he sees, somewhat relieved, but goes digging deeper. “Whew, there it is,” he found it. “OMG – It’s a different N number!” Ironically, not 5 minutes after his encounter, another aircraft, another C172, but definitely not Billy-Bob’s, did the same thing, but instead of making a 180 out of the box, totally oblivious to the jets flying around him, continued right through the box totally interrupting the training exercise and forcing the Blue Angels to scatter!
Billy-Bob’s heart attack was avoided, his career saved, his humiliation averted, and his reputation intact. He slumped into his chair and called me to tell me what happened. We swapped stories, and he was shaken by my little adventure. We had survived a Sunday to be remembered, a day when fate gave both of us a moment in time to realize our good fortunes. While aviation can be unforgiving for a mistake, sometimes Fate gives us reasons to love aviation.
Monday 1000. Brand new fuel strainer ordered from the Bellanca factory, and lesson learned about old fuel strainers (and other parts). If it doesn’t fit back together right the first time, look closely, and just maybe new parts are needed.
And here we are, some 20 years and 1000 hours of Super Viking time later, and the Monster still has never let me down…