by Fred Gibbs
Happy New Year to one and all. I trust you all had a great holiday season!
Apparently Santa and the reindeer did a great job of landing on everyone’s roof since I did not see any Santa accident reports or any reports of roof damage.
GAARMS in review:
It appears as of the date I finished this article (December 27th), there were no fatal accidents in December to add to our totals. That is really good news.
In my December column, and based on the NTSB’s reporting system, I reported there had been no general aviation (GA) accidents involving a pilot fatality over the past 12 months, i.e., since November of 2018. Yes, there was the terrible helicopter crash in Scottsdale earlier this year, but that was a commercial operation, not a GA operation, and thus not included in the GAARMS process. One of my very trusted local sources has advised me of a pilot fatality following a June accident where the pilot later died from his injuries. Ironically, this is still not showing up in the NTSB’s database. None-the-less, as of the end of 2019, we have had only one – I repeat – only one GA pilot fatality, and only one passenger fatality, a tremendous success story. We should all be very pleased with our success, but certainly not be over confident. Flying still has its risks, and we must always be aware of those risks.
The following is a short excerpt by Ken Reed, with his permission, of a fatal accident that occurred just north of Las Vegas…
On November 26, 2019 at approximately 5:35PM a Cirrus SR-22, N7GA enroute from Lake Havasu City Airport, AZ (KHII) to North Las Vegas Airport, NV (KVGT), crashed near Gass Peak, NV under unknown circumstances.
All three individuals on board perished. The pilot of N7GA was working Nellis approach. The aircraft was assigned 6,500 ft and was vectored towards the mountain to avoid traffic departing Nellis.
At the time of the crash, the sun had set and the mountains were not visible. Gass Peak's summit is 6,937 ft.
From social media, it appears that N7GA, the accident aircraft, was equipped with an Aspen PFD and an Avidyne MFD, and it was reported that the pilot regularly also flew with an iPad (as pictured).
The aircraft’s flight path is depicted below:
From the attached VFR sectional you can identify Gas Peak due north of KLAS. In that area, the class Bravo starts at 6,500 ft MSL and extends to 10,000 ft MSL. Also note the minimum vectoring altitudes (MVA) hand drawn and noted as appropriate.
VFR at night in the mountains can carry large risk, even if the pilot is very familiar with the surrounding terrain. Let’s be careful out there. Semper Vigilans (Aways Vigilant).
So, as you can see, there are lots of us out there in different organizations always working to improve safety of flight for our fellow pilots. The terrain up there north of Las Vegas can be just as dangerous as the terrain all across northern Arizona, and it remains one of the most dangerous risks that need careful attention and mitigation, especially if you do any night flying. I will be most interested to see the final NTSB report and if ATC was a causal factor in this accident, and how, with all that automation and data in the cockpit, this could happen. To all my fellow pilots, could this have been a classic case of DRIP, i.e., data rich, but information poor? Lots of data, i.e., Aspen PFD, dual Garmin430W’s, Foreflight on the iPad, Terrain alerts, and working with ATC (using radar) getting flight following, yet with all that data, was he simply overwhelmed with too much information (and/or workload) and not understanding the overarching picture unfolding in front of him? Stay tuned….
2020 FOUR 9’s PROGRAM
I know I am preaching to the choir, but I want to start off the new year with the following re-print -
We are all human – so I am told – and we all make mistakes in life. If we choose to fly, those mistakes can be serious and sometimes deadly. I have never met a pilot who woke up in the morning and said “I think I will go out and kill myself in my airplane today”. All I have ever heard was “I am going out and fly my airplane today and have a great time”. But occasionally FATE , the consummate hunter, rears its ugly head and the accident is just the final result of a health issue. Even with a current medical, continuous yearly check-ups and cardio exams, our bodies can fail us! Sometimes the 3rd class, 2nd class or even the 1st class medical means nothing! Fate is a deadly hunter: It doesn’t care who you are, what class medical you have, where you are or what you are doing! So, I leave you with these 2 questions–
“How do you know when your number is up?
How do you know when you run out of invisible Ink?”
As the Safety Program Director for many a year here at APA, and currently as the Safety Program Director-at-Large, I have long supported and pursued a Four 9’s Safety Program, that is, a 99.99% safety record, or put another way, only a 00.01% pilot fatality rate per year. That equates out to a 1-in-10,000 safety record, or again, in plain English, only 1 fatality per 10,000 pilots. In 2018, we had 8 Arizona-based pilot fatalities per our roughly 26,000 pilots, a safety record of 99.97%, or a fatality rate of 00.03%. So that should to be our goal for 2020 – A 99.99% year, a 1 in 10,000 safety record, only 2.6 pilots being killed. However, like I said last month, there is still a problem with that –
I still have not gotten any volunteers for those 2.6 positions!
While I cannot find a direct correlation between GAARMS and the improvement of the accident rate, I would like to think that the awareness of the accident rate, our continuous attention to the accident rate, and our continuous stream of information to you, the aviation community, raised your awareness of the importance of aviation safety. APA’s commitment is to all of you, our membership and the entire pilot community. Improving aviation safety is an ongoing and relentless effort, and we are proud to be a significant part of the FAA’s FAASTeam program. We continue to present WINGS safety programs state-wide in concert with the Scottsdale FSDO and to present our yearly GAARMS symposium covering the previous year’s fatal accidents. Ironically, statistics indicate that the overwhelming majority – in fact almost all – of the pilots involved in a fatal accident over the past 13 years did NOT participate in the WINGS safety programs, and that trend continues to holds true for 2019 as well. One of our primary efforts is to increase the participation of the pilot community in those safety programs wherever they are held. We need you to invite a fellow pilot to come with you, and help us spread the word and get more folks involved.
Kudo’s Section –
While on the subject of fatal accidents and the four 9’s Safety Program, it appears we have outdone ourselves in 2019, with only ONE pilot fatality and ONE passenger fatality, that I know of, with regards to the Arizona-based pilot community. That means we have achieved a safety rate of 99.995%, which is absolutely outstanding, and all the credit goes to you, the pilot community, for doing such a great job of flying safely. Sure, we have always had our fair share of accidents, but fatal ones are what we care about and can live without – no pun intended! So…
KUDO’s to you all, and keep up the great flying!