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Dangerous Piloting

by John M. White |

All of us who fly bristle when the NTSB releases its findings regarding an aircraft accident for the simple reason that almost without exception "pilot error" is included as one of the causes of the accident. This seems to be SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for the NTSB, and somehow as pilots we get a bad reputation. On the other hand, many times "pilot error" is precisely the proper cause of the accident. As pilots we should all recognize that flying airplanes is a dangerous business. We are operating in an additional dimension from driving a car or other ground based activities. That means as pilots we need to be more cautious and careful than our ground based counterparts.
Dangerous Piloting And caution is a good thing. On February 15th this year in Farmingdale, NJ a pair of pilots decided to take a pleasure flight in a 1973 Cessna T337G with one adult and two children as passengers behind the pilot seats. Apparently the aircraft had wingtip fuel tanks for additional fuel, and had taken on 90 gallons of 100LL just prior to takeoff. Relatives stayed behind at the aircraft's hangar. The pilot was a 45 year old ATP pilot with multi-engine land, commercial pilot single-engine land and a flight instructor certificate. He had logged 2,801 civilian flight hours. The owner of the aircraft had a Polish airplane single engine land pilot license and was required to fly with an English speaking pilot. He had 870 hours of flight time. After takeoff the pilots announced they were going to make a low pass over the airport, and observers on the ground saw the aircraft come by at about 50 feet above the runway, and the last radar data showed the aircraft at 600 feet msl, approximately 400 feet above the airport, with a ground speed of 171 knots. You guessed it - at the end of the low pass they pulled the aircraft up, 6 feet of the right outboard wing separated from the aircraft, and the wreckage was found 633 feet from the wing separation point, digging a 3 foot deep crater and coming to rest nearly in front of the airplane's hangar. All 5 on board perished in the crash. While it is not for me to assign blame for this accident, we can all observe that "caution" was not used during this flight. Other than to show off for the folks on the ground there can be no reason why a low pass was necessary, and both pilots were certainly qualified enough to understand the inherent risks in this behavior. Tragically, the passengers had no say in this operation. Attitude is the most important attribute a pilot has when flying airplanes. Always keeping in mind the dangers of aviation and operating our aircraft with caution and good judgment should always be the rule of the day. When we throw caution to the wind and forget good judgment bad things happen. What say you? Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7 Flying is so many parts skill, so many parts planning, so many parts maintenance, and so many parts luck. The trick is to reduce the luck by increasing the others. — David L. Baker

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