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Pilots you knew who are no longer with us, and what did you learn from the reports?

Four who I knew to a greater or lesser extent.
One got caught as temp and dewpoint met and coastal fog flash formed around him. He lost it and stalled at low level just a few miles from home.
One ditched following engine failure at night and drowned.
One in the mountains, in lousy weather, by downdraft on the lee side he couldn’t outclimb.
One, who learned to fly same time and place as me, who’s big mistake was to accept a ride in the right hand seat.

There have been others now gone but for more prosaic reasons. Nobody gets out alive.

More than I would have liked to know…

I knew the PIC of SR111… I still am in disbelief how that flight was lost. Especcially as SR had a history with fire events, two of which with tragical consequences, one with a very lucky escape. My personal lesson from that one was formulated by Boeing in a reaction to that accident: “In the event of an uncontrolled fire on board either the airplane will land within 15 minutes or the accident is a fact.” Repeat lessons unfortunately keep popping up… UPS6 comes to mind as well as some others such as Saudia 163, which managed to land but still lost all on bord.

In the GA term, we lost two pilots to fire on board over the years. One managed to land but never got out, the other was overcome by fire. Any sign of fire on my airplane will mean to get it down NOW.

Very early in my career I lost a good friend in a VFR into IMC CFIT. Another lesson not forgotten. A few years later another guy I knew crashed near LOAN trying to land there in bad weather. I remember the PIC of the Rheintalflug Commander which crashed into Lake Constance trying to land in bad weather in the days before there was an ILS as well as the PIC of a Seneca who tried to scud-run from Friedrichshafen to Altenrhein a few years later when the ILS was already there but it’s use blocked by Austrian environmentalists. Two lessons out of that, the obvious one, don’t muck about in IMC, the other is that there are people who will not care if we die because they block instrument procedures. The “war” about the ILS in Altenrhein cost 17 human lifes altogether….

I know/knew both pilots of the SATA Caravelle which crashed into the Atlantic ocean at Funchal. One of them was very reflective of what happened, the other never understood he had just helped to kill 36 people. He even wrote a book claiming his innocence….

I almost lost one of my pilots in a mid air recently. Thankfully he managed to crash land, but the accident left one person dead and another blinded permanently. Lesson: Collision avoidance is one of the prime problems of todays GA and needs proper attention and technical help. My airplane did have a power-flarm and is radiating ADS-B, if it had not, it would have been modified darn fast.

Finally, I knew the pilot of the Explorer experimental which crashed at Basel following an overweight take off in an attempt to fly to Oskosh non-stop. That one was a huge shock, as I knew this guy to be an extremely proficient and exact pilot. He flew the world in his long-eze, he was an accomplished Swissair pilot with tens of thousands of hours, the most recent on not very forgiving airplanes like the MD11 and a good friend. Lesson, even such people can succumb to the temptation of get-there-itis and 2nd one: make darn sure you are insured properly.

Flying is a very safe means of transport. But it can be darn unforgiving.

LSZH, Switzerland

Flying is a very safe means of transport.

Only commercial flying is. Recreational flying is absolutely not. Only maybe 10 percent of the people I know fly privately. And not every day. But all people I know take part in road traffic, every day. Twice a day at least. More have been killed flying than on the road. My personal estimate is that private/recreational flying is less safe than road traffic by a factor of at least 100.

Last Edited by what_next at 07 Oct 07:24
EDDS - Stuttgart

The stats show that private flying has roughly the same fatal accident rate as motorcycling on public roads.

Andreas IOM

Yes that seems to be the statistic – to the extent that one can get the data at all.

However, obviously, there is a difference in the subject’s ability to control the situation. Most flying fatals are pilot error, whereas most motorbike fatals are caused by the car driver. I did >100k miles on bikes, decades ago before the UK roads filled up with half-blind car drivers Short of very defensive riding (not much fun) it is very hard to prevent going into a car pulling out from a side road, etc.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Know only one, who ran out of fuel in a twin. He had been waiting in line at the fuel station but waiting pax and get-there-itis set in….

EKRK, Denmark

Thankfully I’ve now known any. When I read that book myself, I wondered what motivates someone to keep flying when they see so many people around them dieing.

The conclusion I came to is probably as true today as it was then; we simply don’t believe it will happen to us. It’s very easy to look at someone else’s mistake and think “I’d never do that”, but forget that they probably thought the same thing, yet something conspired to make them do “that”.

Then there are the accidents, where it wasn’t the pilot’s fault, and somehow we are able to just brush it aside as being “unlikely to happen to me”.

That’s one reason that I think reading accident reports are useful. It helps you, if you’re honest with yourself, to see how you might be seduced into a chain of decisions which as a whole are wrong, but individually make sense and are reasonable. Learning to recognise that chain and say “no” to an individual decision that might seem reasonable, takes a lot of effort and self reflection.

EIWT Weston

The UK has one of the best road safety records in the world….but there are still 5 or 6 killed every day on average….not to mention ten times that many seriously injured…. so what motivates them to keep driving when they see so many people around them dieing (sic)….

EGPD / OMDW / YPJT, United Kingdom

One of the reservist pilots at my squadron was an A.G pilot. He took off full with chemicals at the front and crashed into the groves at the end of the runway.
An IAF test pilot and a squadron pilot carried a test flight on an aircraft that came out of a rebuild, the control cables were crossed, the test pilot was killed and the squadron pilot was very badly injured.
A British friend flew his aircraft into a mountain near Monaco, vis. was less than perfect.
A German friend flew his new (to him) aircraft during a very poor weather day. He climbed into the low clouds and came out in a near vertical. It had all glass panel.
A US friend took his granddaughter for a ride in his home built (Murphy Rabble), CB’s, 40kt gusts etc. They were caught by a gust which pushed them ~300m into an hanger, he died, she was badly injured.
An acquaintance in Italy was involved in a mid air (near Milan) with a C172, his wing was bent and the Cessna lost the top 1/3 of the fin & rudder, both landed safely.

I am one who have used 4 of his lives. X1 near miss, X1 electrical fire in the cockpit, X1 loss of control in low level IMC due to faulty AP and X1 near miss seconds after rotation with a weather balloon that has crashed on the runway edge about 30m ahead of me.

Last Edited by Ben at 07 Oct 12:15

So far only one. He did a flat spin too low to recover.
I was very surprised. He seemed reasonable.

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