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"Meaningless" accidents

As pilots, we tend to read accident reports...

So many of them portray fatal-accident flights, by apparently experienced pilots, which look like the pilot simply never got the weather (hard to believe).

Quite a number involve IR holders who were flying "dodgy VFR" in IMC, and one wonders why they were flying "VFR" when they had the legal option to go IFR.

Very few accidents involve IR holders flying straightforward IFR procedures.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

The SR22 crash in Zurich, Switzerland is a good example of an IFR accident. Due to insufficient knowledge of the electrical system and poor decision making, the pilot of a perfectly OK Cirrus killed himself and passengers for no reason.

Another accident of a SR22 near Bielefeld that was on an IFR flight plan from Poland and cancelled IFR to land on a VFR aerodrome even though the weather was IFR. 4 people died.

What I was thinking was along the lines of accidents where the pilot should (based on hours on type, qualifications, etc) know what he was doing, but still he chose to do a flight which in the conditions would have been very hazardous.

Accidents where somebody bought a plane with complex systems, didn't know which buttons did what, and crashed it, are probably more common. And yes Cirrus would be expected to pick up more of those, because of (IMHO) the type's recent appearance in the marketplace, up to date avionics, and "ease of operation" marketing in the USA.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I have to say that the Zurich accident reported here is very instructive. The PA 46 has a similar essential/non-essential bus system with dual alternators. We spent a lot of time on this in training - I can now see why. To crash a perfectly flyable aircraft like that with such loss of life is terrible.

I wonder if the pilot even understood that his essential systems were not about to fail.

EGTK Oxford


Very few accidents involve IR holders flying straightforward IFR procedures.

Almost every accident involving airliners and commercial aviation falls in that category: Busting minima, not monitoring altitude/distance during non-precision approaches, getting distracted in the cruise (I found myself once upside-down in turbulence in a Pa28 while looking for a chart - luckily I was current in "recovery from unusual attitudes"),icing encounter, mis-reading instruments, getting distracted by minor malfunctions, fatigue, complacency, you name it.

EDDS - Stuttgart

I always find this an interesting topic (in my own head). I have an IMCr so dont quite have all the other options that a full IR gives, but the questions are still the same. And that is, "Do I really want to fly in this weather?" Particuarly with the weather getting colder, and the closing gap between the 0c level and the MSA, the options for safe flight are more restricted. Also, "Do I take a chance and fly through the clouds in front of me, even though I am not on a radar service and am unlikely to get one at this point in time or location?". And "will the weather stay marginal (but legal) or will it get worse, or will it get better?"

My conclusion is that there are always risks (even on a CAVOK lovely sunny day, maybe more so with loads of other GA aircraft out and about), but one has to make the best use of all weather briefs, skills, and make a decision if one is comfortable or not to fly. I love flying, and I love IMC flying every now and then, but I do hope that one day I dont become a 'meaningless accident'. Although that sounds depressing, it doesnt stop me flying because there are equally large number of risks doing anything once you have climbed out of your safe bed in the morning. Even my 10 minute walk from a certain London train station to my office is fraught with risks - I cant tell you how many time a black cab has nearly 'got' me. Its all risk management exercise, and you just have to try and be safe.

You do feel sad when you read some of these reports and you think 'if only he/she had just done that....', but as I say, that applies to all human activities really.

Almost every accident involving airliners and commercial aviation falls in that category

I am sure that's true for public transport, but not for light GA.

On a very quick recollection, I reckon "dodgy VFR" kills 5x to 10x more IR holders than "classical IFR".

VFR (I mean legit VFR) is a good tool for e.g. icing conditions higher up, when a low level VFR run is entirely appropriate. Or for simple efficiency, when the SID/STAR routings would double the distance, as is often the case - and take you into icing conditions for good measure.

But some accidents I recall (N2195B, N403HP were two locally based) involved a totally pointless avoidance of IFR flight. Presumably other factors drove those decisions; not necessarily appearing in the accident reports. Lack of a 1999kg STC for N2195B (IFR route charges) and not carrying oxygen (operating ceiling crippled) might have been factors.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

This has nothing to do with IFR, but seems to be Human Factors, with a question as to who believed they were in charge.

EGPE, United Kingdom

This has nothing to do with IFR, but seems to be Human Factors, with a question as to who believed they were in charge.

The report you cite doesn't make that point at all. Do you have some other reason for believing that is the case?

EGTK Oxford

I went to a presentation last week on some accidents, which made the point very well that if you bust minima (etc) you are equally likely to kill yourself if you are a PPL or a 2xATPL crew.

However one thing which struck me was that the “elephant in the room” in the GA “VFR in IMC by IR holders” crashes was the lack of carrying oxygen. The two examples I recall (G-AYZE and N2195B) were both capacility-crippled by this. N2195B, who used to share “my” hangar, had some other factors (> 2000kg = route charges, reported difficulties in working out Eurocontrol routes) but with a PA34T having a ~24k ceiling, without oxygen you may as be flying a PA28-140.

Why does a fair % of the IFR community still fly with both hands tied behind their back in this way?

Dead passengers in both cases, too.

Last Edited by Peter at 30 Apr 10:40
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom
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