2020 TO DATE:
As of late December, as I write this article, there has been no change in the NTSB’s report of fatal accidents here in Arizona; in fact, I am unable to actually access the data at all. In addition, I am aware of another accident via the newspapers and TV that occurred in October: a Lancair with 2 fatalities, as well as a crash up in Nevada involving an Arizona-based pilot and airplane, with another two fatalities, but I have no further information or confirmation on either of these two accidents. The NTSB report shown here is what I was able to download in October, but it does not show the latest accidents.
A short summary of the 7 total fatal accidents that I know of during 2020 follows:
Two of the accidents involved helicopters, both Bell Helicopter UH-1U’s. The first accident involved a helicopter being operated by the U. S. Forest Service in support of firefighting activities near Payson. The helicopter was sling-loading supplies to a hotshot crew as they relocated in their efforts to fight the fire. During his 4th run, the load began swinging, causing the helicopter to start flying erratically, eventually entering a steep nose-up attitude and descending rapidly into the ground. The pilot was fatally injured, and the helicopter was totally consumed by fire. This accident does NOT fall neatly into any specific category, although it resulted in loss of control.
The 2nd helicopter accident occurred in Mesa. Witnesses reported seeing the helicopter flying low towards Falcon Field with white smoke emanating from the rear rotor section when suddenly the tail rotor separated from the helicopter. The helicopter subsequently started to spin and impacted the ground. The tail rotor assembly was located some 200 yards from the main debris field. The pilot was fatally injured, while the passenger survived with serious injuries. This accident falls into the structural failure leading to loss of control category.
The three remaining accidents involved 3 different types of aircraft, A Van’s RV-4, a Duane B. Evans (Zenith) 601 HDS, and a Piper PA-28-140. They all fell into the category of “Controlled Flight into Terrain” (CFIT), 2 during the day and one at night. The NTSB reports offered no explanations or causal factors as to why these aircraft flew into the ground.
The six accidents within Arizona plus the one in Nevada match pretty well with the ongoing statistical analysis year-by-year, both in the total number of accidents and fatalities. In other words, even taking out the Forest Service operated helicopter, the general aviation accident rate remains essentially the same year-to-year!!! Are we doomed to keep repeating history? Will 2021, with the introduction of the Covid vaccine, only get worse as more pilots return to the sky, rusty as hell from not flying very much during 2020? And please remember, WHEN, NOT IF, you get the vaccine, you must avoid flying for 48 hours to ensure no side effects.
This coming year is going to require all of us to give our flying due diligence. My New Year’s resolution (wish) is that the accident rate will actually decrease as a result of all of us exercising due caution as we return to the sky!
FOR INFORMATION ON ALL ACCIDENTS/INCIDENTS THAT OCCURRED LAST MONTH, REFER TO JIM TIMM’S ACCIDENT SUMMARY HEREIN.
December 31st marked another milestone in my life: my 2nd career-ending retirement. On December 31st, 1999 (a long time ago in a far, far away galaxy), I retired from the FAA after 30 years of service in various and sundry functions and organizations, the flight service world, Eastern region headquarters, national headquarters in D.C. and internationally, and doing Aeronautical Information Management all over North, Central, and South America. On January 1st, 2000, I formed the Aviation Research and Consulting Group, aka The ARC Group, and continued working various contracts both within the FAA and outside with several big names in the ATC environment, i.e., Raytheon, DynCorp, AOPA, The Washington Consulting Group, Lockheed Martin Flight Services, and Boeing Air Traffic Management Systems. On December 31st, 2020, I effectively closed down my 20-year aviation consulting efforts under The ARC Group (unless, of course, any one of my previous contacts in the industry just happens to call tomorrow). I no longer go looking for work in that realm; however, my aviation services continue. Having the opportunity to run the flight school for Wiseman Aviation here in Flag certainly keeps me busy and out of trouble! Hopefully, with 2021 introducing the new vaccines, I hope to see the end of the COVID-19 pandemic by mid-2021 and the re-start of the traveling safety programs that the APA does all over the state in pursuit of reducing accidents through education. Keep your fingers crossed that we see the end of the COVID-19 scourge.
My next retirement will be from the aviation world, but not for a while yet – I hope! I started flying in 1972, so 2022 will be 50 years in aviation, hopefully qualifying me for the Wright Brothers award, my intended swan song, or at the least, the start of that swan song. By the end of 2022, at age 79, it may be time to start considering selling my trusty ol’ meticulously cared for Bellanca Super Viking, and I might even have to trade in my Corvette for a much easier-to-get-into sedan. OMG, what a terrible thought, the end of my mid-life crisis! BUT I AIN’T GOING OUT QUIETLY OR EASY!!!
Fred’s pop Quiz…
Well, winter is upon us, especially if you venture north, so test your knowledge of winter hazards.
- AIRMETs are disseminated to all pilots and come in three types. Which type AIRMET describes moderate icing and provides freezing level heights?
- AIRMET Sierra
- AIRMET Tango
- AIRMET Zulu
- Stopping by your airplane on a chilly morning you notice gray fuzz coating the upper airframe surfaces. It wasn't there the night before. "Frost!" you mutter. No, not the long-dead New England poet, but that white fuzzy stuff all over your airplane! You know you need to remove this frost from all surfaces before flight because you know that even a small amount of frost –
- Can cause radio static due to St. Elmo's fire
- Can cause structural icing to form in flight
- Can degrade aerodynamic properties and performance
- Scenario: You're IFR, eastbound at 7000 feet, in a poorly heated, single-engine airplane, inside Class E airspace. You're skimming the tops of the clouds and you're picking up ice. Clear sunshine beckons above, so you request a climb to 9000 feet. "Unable," ATC replies, due to opposite-direction traffic at 8000 and same direction traffic at 9000 feet. "Well, move someone!" you want to yell, but instead you request, "VFR On-Top at 7500 feet." The controller -- impressed that you know this OTP trick -- approves your request. As a result, however, your IFR clearance is:
- Suspended, or
- Still in effect
- Once your Bonanza ices up like an Estonian fishing trawler in the dead of winter in the north Atlantic, you'll be expected to report your condition to ATC or Flight Service, using approved phraseology. "I have a $**&#@- load of ice on this thing!” does not cut it! Instead, ATC wants to know specifically where you found the ice, what type it is and how bad it is. What are the official reportable icing values (per AIM)?
- Light, Moderate, Severe, Extreme
- Trace, Light, Moderate, Severe
- Light, Medium, Severe, Extreme
Correct answers: 1.C 2.C 3.C 4.A