talking about accidents putting of student pilots?

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talking about accidents putting of student pilots?

Postby » Wed Mar 12, 2008 5:25 pm

Hi Dave, Jack, James and Jack,

Thanks for your weekly hour of general aviation talks. Some demographics: I'm a student pilot from The Netherlands, Europe. I fly a Tecnam P2002F (VLA) from EHHV (Hilversum) a grass strip, uncontrolled. By the way, learning to fly in Europe is not cheap: expect $250 /hour rental fees for a 172. I now have 20 hours dual and 2,5 solo, and already over $7500,- (including headset, books etc.). Uncontrolled Airspace and The Finer Points are in my top 3 podcast plays!

I enjoy your conversations on recent experiences, techniques, safety issues, new planes etc.etc. The stuff about the FAA, user fees I usually fast forward.

My question is about fatal accidents. Pilots often talk about them, I've noticed. How safe is General Aviation (excluding airlines)? For instance, are there comparisons with for example sailing/yachting, motorcycles etc.etc.?

Keep it up!


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Re: talking about accidents putting of student pilots?

Postby jackhodgson » Wed Mar 12, 2008 6:45 pm

Jeb may have some good stats on relative risk.

A CFI friend once told me that statistically GA flying was as comparable in risk to riding a motorcycle. That always seemed reasonable to me.

Looking at it another way. Given that I put many more hours in my car, than an airplane, I'm certain that I'm much more likely to be hurt in a car, than a plane. So, to me, that makes planes safer.

But then I also think December 8 is the shortest day of the year, so take my ideas with a grain of salt.

-- Jack

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Re: talking about accidents putting of student pilots?

Postby t0r0nad0 » Wed Mar 12, 2008 9:06 pm

Overall, flying is very safe. Unfortunately, aircraft accidents tend to get reported more frequently, so the perception is that they are unsafe. I guess it would be more fair to say that flying is as safe as the pilot makes it. As pilots, we talk about these accidents not to place blame, but rather to identify the mistakes of other and thus learn from them - therefore making our flying safer.

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Re: talking about accidents putting of student pilots?

Postby champguy » Wed Mar 12, 2008 9:21 pm

I don't like thinking that flying is as safe as riding a motorcycle. I quit again a couple of years ago for all the obvious reasons.
Over the years I've quit whenever I got so comfortable on a bike that I started riding too fast and having too much fun. Then in a few years, a new bike and the learning process started over again.
When we talk about accidents, it's because we don't want to have one. If we stop thinking about safety, every time we fly, then it's time to quit.
In ground school when they started talking about hazzardous attitudes, I had to do some soul searching, and some growing up; some would say considerably overdue.
Remember, not all who wander, are lost.

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Re: talking about accidents putting of student pilots?

Postby PilotBillFromTexas » Wed Mar 12, 2008 9:30 pm

I think of it like scuba diving. It's inherently dangerous and unforgiving for the foolish but immensely satisfying for those that are willing to stick with what you learned in the training, make cautious decisions and respect the power of mother nature.

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Re: talking about accidents putting of student pilots?

Postby Dave Higdon » Thu Mar 13, 2008 12:29 pm

Good question, Jeremy -- but one we usually hear from people before they take up lessons...having usually discerned that GA is generally very safe...

I can't quote the most-recent numbers from memory, so I'll quote one of my favorite authorities on the subject, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's Nall Report:

"The general aviation fixed-wing safety record continued its improvement in 2006, reaching historic lows for both total (1,319, down 8.3 percent from 2005) and fatal accidents (273, down 6.5 percent). Also of note maneuvering flight, a consistent leader in fatalities, dipped significantly from 80 (33.1 percent) fatal accidents in 2005 to 54 (25.0 percent) in 2006."

And that's just the synopsis from the Nall Report can look it up yourself here:

But stats don't really tell the whole story. In deference to another post, and as a former motorcycle rider (about 15 years of riding, after which I gave up 'scooters' for hang gliders), I can't totally agree with the comparison to motorcycle safety...seldom have I been cut off in traffic by another airplane, no left turns in front of me at intersections, and a lot more sky than highway when flying...

At the end of the day, Jeremy, how safe we fly is directly related to how safely we think, how practiced we are at this thing called flying, and how well we exercise judgment -- judgment, which, unfortunately, we tend to learn best by surviving mistakes...and that's one reason why we talk about safety, accidents and near-accidents: to help others learn from our mistakes and to learn something useful from the mistakes of others. Guess we're as safe as we make ourselves, aside, it must be said, from those rare instances when something never-before encountered causes an accident. Against those possibilities -- remotely rare, though they are -- we can only hope we're up to the task because it's hard to prepare or train for something no one ever before saw or conceived of happening.

Best thing you can do for your own safety: study well, practice often, and when you push the envelope on your skills and judgment, to so wisely and sparingly. We all have to push things a little -- otherwise, we'd never get out of the pattern, never tackle cross-country or learning instrument flying.

Most important of all, though, don't ever -- ever let yourself feel like you've mastered aviation, and don't ever let it stop being fun. Mastery is not in the cards, only getting smarter and better. And fun is why so many of us start flying -- and if you lose that sense of enjoyment, well, why bother? Certainly not for the bragging rights -- not, at least, in Wichita, Kansas, where pilots are a Euro a dozen ;) .

Good luck with the training! Know it's costing a lot of opportunities to do other things with the money -- but it's worth it!

but both the total rate of accidents and the rate of fatal accidents (at least here in the U.S.) has been on a steady decline over several decades and is now down to the lowest level in years...

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Re: talking about accidents putting of student pilots?

Postby Punky » Thu Mar 13, 2008 5:07 pm

The scuba analogy is a good one.
I happen to be a scuba instructor so I'm well versed on the similarities. Let me demonstrate.
The MAJORITY of scuba fatalities (there are few accidents that don't end in either death or severe life long injuries) happen with people who are doing something (like wreck penetration or deep dives) that they didn't get the additional training for. There are many stories of a buddy trying to teach another buddy and things go wrong. Incredibly many of the bodies recovered are found in 15 feet of water and they still have their weight belt on!!!

Training and experience are everything - a situation that would kill the regular diver/pilot is survivable by someone with training/experience and above all else... someone who keeps a level head in crisis.

I ran out of air at 80ft once on a third dive of the day. Without going into details - my underwater navigation was misjudged and when I arrived back at the wreck I knew I only had a few breathes left. Instead of doing a free ascent (which would have either killed me or created permanent injury) I opted to search out an alternate source of air and ascend with another buddy using his alternate air... still managing to do a safety stop on the way up.

The point is - inexperience or panic could have caused another diver to disregard his 80ft position or the fact that this was his third deep dive for the day (divers will know the principles of residual nitrogen from multiple dives) and shot for the surface in a free ascent - probably resulting in a run away ascent and death.

Yes - I made a mistake - and there was a series of steps that led me down that slippery slope - who doesn't - but once the mistake was realized the training kicked in and I got myself out of it unscathed. The same thing holds true to flying. There are going to be things that you make a mistake on and even somethings that you couldn't have prevented - but it's your training and your disposition that will save your ass. Statistics are great for insurance companies - but the type of person you are is what will allow you to beat or fall victim to those statistics.


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