2020 TO DATE:

So far this year the NTSB is reporting five fatal accidents, with five fatalities (four pilots) and three serious injuries (one pilot and 2 passengers).

gaarms september 2020 five fatal accidents

Two of the accidents occurred during the month of June, ironically both the same day, and both were experimental home-built aircraft. A Zenair CH601 departed Deer Valley en route to Ak-Chin and struck the very top of a small mountain about 2 miles northeast of the Ak-Chin airport and was destroyed by fire. The pilot/owner was fatally injured. The second accident involved a RV-4 inbound to the Safford airport. The aircraft impacted a hillside during the approach, and the sole pilot onboard was fatally injured.

Two of the other accidents involved helicopters, one near Mesa, the other near Payson. Both were bell UH-1H’s. The crash near mesa was apparently caused by the loss of the tail rotor, while the second helicopter was assisting in firefighting efforts, using a long line to lift/transport supplies to a hotshot crew. On the fourth lift, things went drastically wrong and the helicopter crashed.

The fifth crash was a Piper PA-28 on a personal cross-country flight from Falcon Field to Payson and back. The pilot stated in an interview that after a flight earlier that morning, he departed from Falcon Field Airport (FFZ), Mesa, Arizona, en route to Payson. He landed in Payson, refueled, and departed for the return flight back to FFZ. During the return flight, the pilot decided to fly over the mountains southwest of their position. He stated that he flew about 1,000 ft above ground level (AGL) over the mountains, while the passengers were spotting wildlife on the terrain below. The pilot stated the airplane was running well and doesn't remember anything else until waking up in a small creek at the accident site.



gaarms september going to the store gas mask


Enjoy flying safe–

Going flying, escaping into the beautiful wild blue yonder, is a great way to enjoy quarantine. But if you take your wife or a friend with you, don’t forget masks, wipe down your controls, avionics knobs, door handles, seat buckles, etc., and be sure to clean all of your headsets.

Do your good deed for the day: protect yourself and others…



Fred’s Perspective…

gaarms september 2020 dust storm

Well, monsoon season is upon us here in Arizona, and some of those thunderstorms may be doozy’s – that is technically NOT an official NWS term – but we all know what that means. They can include torrential rains, super strong winds, dust storms, lightning, and lots of turbulence, thus the 20-mile buffer recommended for going around them. However, not all thunderstorms are alike, some are just small cells that we can safely navigate around, usually referred to as isolated or scattered. We see them all the time up here in Flagstaff, one over here, another over there, etc., and we watch their movement carefully. When they exist, we normally stay in the pattern, monitor the wind, and when it starts to pick up and/or change direction, we head in. Making that judgment call takes experience. (Experience is what you gain after surviving the wrong decision!!) Here in Flag, it is not unusual to see the 2 windsocks and the AWOS all showing the wind from different directions. Landings here can be, ummm, both fun and challenging! I have seen the windsocks on each end of the runway showing the winds 180 degrees different! And any time the winds approach 20KTS, there are usually Low-Level Wind Shear (LLWS) alerts. You can expect that about the time you reach just above the tree top level, you will encounter turbulence, so be prepared. And a wind right down the runway can quickly turn into a strong cross wind condition, or even a tailwind!

Airplanes don’t particularly care about rain, unless it is torrential, but they do care about lightning and or turbulence. Lightning won’t necessarily hurt you – you are not grounded – but believe me, it will scare the %$&@# out of you and may well fry all of your avionics, but most likely will not kill you. (I wonder what it would do to the wood wing on my Bellanca Viking?)

gaarms september 2020 bellanca super viking

Turbulence, however, is another story. Thunderstorms have been known to ball up and spit out airliners and fighter jets, so us little guys don’t have a chance if we tangle with a biggee! And many an airplane has been destroyed trying to beat a thunderstorm to the airport!

ADS-B “in” giving you a display of the weather is a great tool, but always remember, it is a picture of what WAS, could be as old as 15 minutes, and does not show movement. Look at the weather on your iPad and then look out the windshield at the actual weather. YES, it may look pretty close, but always try to visually stay away from the yellow and red areas, and never go under a red area! Simply use the weather display to see where the weather is/was and adjust headings to avoid those areas by a significant amount. Combining the picture with ATC’s Flight Following service and weather point outs significantly improves your safety margin. The actual thunderstorm may be easy to see, as are the shafts of rain or Virga, but the wind outflows are not, so give them plenty of room as you stay clear of them. If your flight path does take you through some Virga, anticipate the possibility of very strong downdrafts, and even though it does not look too bad, also anticipate heavy precipitation. The wrong thought process is – “Gee, it doesn’t look too bad, the rain is not even hitting the ground.”

And I leave you with this thought – Ever drive your car through heavy rain, with those great big water droplets blasting your windshield? And you never ever worried – or even gave it a thought - about your ½ inch thick solid glass windshield not holding up under that beating. Well, how well do you think that ¼ inch thick piece of plastic between you and that driving rain will stand up? And let’s not even think about hail!!



Fred’s Fractured Factoid…

Why it's called Lake Superior . . .

Because it is! Do you realize just how humongously big this lake is?

gaarms september 2020 lake superior 1


    • Lake Superior contains ten percent of all the fresh water on the planet Earth.
    • It covers 82,000 square kilometers or 31,700 square miles. (3,000 cubic miles of water)
    • The average depth is 147 meters or 483 feet.
    • There have been about 350 shipwrecks recorded in Lake Superior (Remember the Edmond Fitzgerald?)
    • Lake Superior is, by surface area, the largest lake in the world. FYI, It is almost 70 miles across open water from the Manistee VOR in Michigan to the shore line of Wisconsin on a line to Oshkosh. (Do engines automatically know when they are over water?)
    • A Jesuit priest in 1668 named it Lac Tracy, but that name was never officially adopted.
    • It contains as much water as all the other Great Lakes combined, plus 3 extra Lake Erie 's!!
    • There is a small outflow from the lake at St. Mary's River (Sault Ste Marie) into Lake Huron, but it takes almost two centuries for the water to be completely replaced.

gaarms september 2020 lake superior 2

    • There is enough water in Lake Superior to cover all of North and South America with water one foot deep. (That is, if it was flat!)
    • Lake Superior was formed during the last glacial retreat, making it one of the earth's youngest major features at only about 10,000 years old.
    • The deepest point in the lake is 405 meters or 1,333 feet.
    • There are 78 different species of fish that call the big lake home. (But NO lake Superior monster like the Loch Ness monster.)
    • The maximum wave ever recorded on Lake Superior was 9.45 meters or 31 feet high!
    • If you stretched the shoreline of Lake Superior out to a straight line, it would be long enough to reach from Duluth to the Bahamas. To drive around it is a 1,300 mile drive.
    • Over 300 streams and rivers empty into Lake Superior with the largest source being the Nipigon River (I have no clue where that is!!)

gaarms september 2020 lake superior 3

  • The average underwater visibility of Lake Superior is about 8 meters or 27 feet, making it the cleanest and clearest of the Great Lakes. Underwater visibility in some spots is 30 meters.
  • In the summer, the sun sets more than 35 minutes later on the western shore of Lake Superior than at its southeastern edge.
  • Some of the world's oldest rocks, formed about 2.7 billion years ago, can be found on the Ontario shore of Lake Superior. (Some of those are even older than me!)
  • It very rarely freezes over completely, and then usually just for a few hours. Complete freezing occurred in 1962, 1979, 2003 and 2009. (Kinda like Hell, Michigan!)




gaarms september 2020 online webinars


There are not a lot of FAASTeam safety programs on the schedule over the next couple of months all around the state, so go to -WWW.FAASAFETY.GOV - and click on “Seminars” and check them out for any Webinars you might be interested in. You might find one that really is right up your alley!! Should you desire a particular safety or educational program at your local airport or pilot meeting in the future (post COVID-19), like the BasicMed program or our “Winter Wonderland” snow season special, simply contact me directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call me at 410-206-3753. The Arizona Pilots Association provides the safety programs at no charge. We can also help you organize a program of your choice, and we can recommend programs that your pilot community might really like.


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