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

I am about 20% through the famous Fate is the Hunter book (thank you Colm for the present; at my age I can’t recall if it was a birthday or xmas ) and one thing that strikes me is how many dead colleagues are listed in the preface, and how many get casually mentioned (“he survived many more adventures, except his last one”) through the text.

Admittedly, in those days (the bit I am reading is apparently late 1930s) they used to do stuff which today, with ILS and GPS, seems completely mad, like flying timed turns between mountains. The world of airmail (sometimes with a dozen passengers) was on a whole other level…

But I have read plenty of reports where the pilot did something very similar, despite having all the radio aids.

I know of some dead pilots from Shoreham (N2195B, N403HP, the RV mid-air guy) but didn’t know any of them, beyond conversationally. And all 3 were easily avoidable. I guess the learning value there is along the lines of “better not think of doing that, just in case you were going to”.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I’m re-reading the book. I first read it about 15 years ago, lent the book to my grandfather, and I’m now reading it again. The other night I was on the IOM ferry and was completely lost in the book, reading about his hair-raising encounter with icing over mountains…

I’ve known a few nearly dead pilots, and two dead ones (someone I’d met at a fly-in who subsequently died during a forced landing in the desert in a Van’s RV, and another friend who died in an accident in a Piper Apache after evidently making a series of strange decisions after an engine failure in cruise) Probably the most significant nearly dead pilot I know (or knew, he’s actually dead now due to old age) was the one who spun in while test flying a microlight. I would have witnessed the spin-in had I not been 50 feet off the deck in climb attitude with my only forward view being a big yellow nose cowling and blue sky.

There was microlight someone had finished that had really marginal performance – we watched some of the test flights and its climb rate was awful. It was a 3 axis “looks like a light aircraft” type of microlight – I don’t remember what model it was. I was going to pick a friend up at the ferry terminal and had a few hours before he arrived so I decided to go for a local bimble. It was a nice day, but with a reasonably brisk breeze from the north east. That meant takeoff was over the Bride Hills, not a problem if your plane can climb at 1500 fpm at 65 mph, but the Bride Hills (which is a terminal moraine left by the last ice age) were a bit more of an obstacle for a microlight being flight tested at max all up weight which probably climbed at 300fpm on a good day with just one on board, especially because of the “clutching hand” that’s always downwind of the Bride Hills.

I had spoken to the BMAA guy only about 20 minutes earlier, he had arrived in his own Europa, I mentioned a friend had one with the turboed Rotax and he remarked “You don’t need that much power” (privately, I thought, you can never have too much power unless you rip the wings off or have absurdly short endurance). He and the owner (who was the pilot I knew) had done one landing and were going for the next. I climbed out after them, and lowered the nose at about 200 feet to see where they had got to, and saw a curious white object on the top of the Bride Hills, but it was far enough away it didn’t really resolve into anything other than something white. Then someone on the ground said on the radio “I think they crashed!” so I lowered the nose and looked again. Coming over the hills, I saw the microlight about 1/3rd the way down the biggest of the hills, nose pointed downhill (180 degrees from the original direction of flight) at the bottom of a short ground scar, and the aircraft now had acquired about 20 degrees of anhedral to its wings. I then saw the owner (the guy I knew) crawl out of the wreckage, hurt. The microlight was a tandem seat aircraft and he was in the back. I didn’t at this time realise the BMAA guy was in the front, wearing the engine.

I climbed to get some altitude and made a radio call to Ronaldsway Radar to get help. It turns out there was a Royal Navy Sea King not too far to the south, so the Sea King attended, setting down on the top of the hill. The Sea King airlifted the BMAA guy to Nobles Hospital (who was very seriously injured) and the owner was carried off the hill to Nobles by a road ambulance. It took probably 40 minutes for the Sea King crew to extract the BMAA guy and lift.

The owner later told me he remembered switching off the master switch (the switches were on the wing root like a Citabria) while they were spinning in. Fortunately they crashed going downhill which meant the aircraft slid along the ground a bit instead of fenceposting, no doubt this spread the energy dissipation over sufficient time to allow both of them to survive.

Last Edited by alioth at 06 Oct 15:44
Andreas IOM

The www is full of accident reporting sites, some with more analysis than I care to read let alone to think over. Also all CAA’s (at least in Europe) now publish accident reports. So all that is to be learned from accident reports is amply available; and indeed much can be learned from them. There was no need for the present thread, and I find it little delicate to make people dig up memories of people that they knew, even may have been dear to them.

EBZH Kiewit, Belgium

Sometimes things get unexpectedly tragic. An instructor in my former club was killed by a prospective student less than one minute into a familiarisation flight. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing: the guy was an experienced simmer and thought he knew how to control a plane. On a crosswind turn, he put in a legful of rudder with such a force the instructor could not overpower him, and the plane duly broke into a spin.

LKBU near Prague, Czech Republic

I think, on balance, I share Jan’s view on this thread

EHLE / Lelystad, Netherlands, Netherlands

The statistic I prefer to offer when this subject arises is that in 23 years RAF service, I attended 18 aircrew funerals. All but two of those aircrew had died due to ‘pilot error’. The two exceptions had been shot down.

Fly safely
Various UK. Operate throughout Europe and Middle East, United Kingdom

Jan_Olieslagers wrote:

and I find it little delicate to make people dig up memories of people that they knew, even may have been dear to them.

Maybe. But personally, I have no problem with that because it brings back memories for people I wouldn’t otherwise have thought of again for a long time.

The first pilot killed I personally knew was one of my gliding instructors when I was 16 or 17 years old. He had survived flying Fw190s or Me109s (can’t remember which) in the last days of WW II, but that student who panicked and gripped the control stick when their winch cable broke (this is the theory at least) was too much for him. It happened on a Good Friday over 35 years ago and since then I avoid flying on that day of the year. I am neither religious nor superstitious but I think I owe that to him.

There were some more, both tragic (like that instructor colleague who was just about to start his own IR training but couldn’t wait and went flying in bad weather – cause of the crash unknown, either icing or loss of control in IMC) and stupid (that idiot who had publicly offered 50.000 German Mark to the person who would get him an IFR by taking the exams in his name and went flying through a CB cloud in the Alps with his girlfriend and children) and anything in between (CFIT in a bizjet in the early days of selfmade GPS approaches, heat attack of an instructor, tragically also killing the student, EFATO in an aerobatic plane).

What did I learn from it? Not more or less than from every “anonymous” accident report. With the added truth that these accidents really happen in real life, not just on paper or in theory. Don’t take unnecessary risks (like aerobatics…). Report sick when not feeling well. Don’t do stupid things (like selfmade instrument approaches). Leave ample margins always (like not flying SE IR with less than 1000ft ground clearance), never never never fly into icing conditions with aircraft that can’t handle it.

EDDS - Stuttgart

I was at a fly in last year, when one of the participants crashed after take off. A door of his Flight Design CT popped open on departure and he didn’t abort, although there was more than enough runway left to do so. He was busy at trying to close the door, getting far too slow in a nose high attitude. Lesson learned for me (again): Always fly the aircraft.

EDLE

Hmmm… a TB10 pilot got killed at Shoreham in the same way (before my time) when his luggage door opened after takeoff. He got distracted and crashed. But I never knew him. The general lesson is worth learning though.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Sympathise with Jan on this – these two were flying club members, but didn’t know them personally: VMC into IMC near mountains is totally unforgiving.

NTSB Identification: SEA76AS039
14 CFR General Aviation Forn
Aircraft: PIPER PA-28R, registration: C-GLPD
-————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-
FILE DATE LOCATION AIRCRAFT DATA INJURIES FLIGHT PILOT DATA
F S M/N PURPOSE
-————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-
E-0006 76/3/17 NR.ELDON,WA PIPER PA-28R CR- 2 0 0 NONCOMMERCIAL CERTIFICATE OTHER, AGE
TIME – 2028 C-GLPD PX- 0 0 0 BUSINESS 45, 876 TOTAL HOURS, 9 IN
DAMAGE-DESTROYED OT- 0 0 0 TYPE, NOT INSTRUMENT
RATED.
DEPARTURE POINT INTENDED DESTINATION
TROUTDALE,OR VANCOUVER,BC,CAN
TYPE OF ACCIDENT PHASE OF OPERATION
COLLISION WITH GROUND/WATER: CONTROLLED IN FLIGHT: NORMAL CRUISE
PROBABLE CAUSE(S)
PILOT IN COMMAND – FAILED TO FOLLOW APPROVED PROCEDURES,DIRECTIVES,ETC.
PILOT IN COMMAND – FAILED TO USE OR INCORRECTLY USED MISC.EQUIPMENT
FACTOR(S)
WEATHER – LOW CEILING
WEATHER – RAIN
TERRAIN – HIGH OBSTRUCTIONS
PERSONNEL – WEATHER PERSONNEL: INADEQUATE/INCORRECT WEATHER BRIEFING
WEATHER BRIEFING – BRIEFED BY FLIGHT SERVICE PERSONNEL, BY PHONE
WEATHER FORECAST – FORECAST SUBSTANTIALLY CORRECT
MISSING AIRCRAFT – LATER RECOVERED
SKY CONDITION CEILING AT ACCIDENT SITE
OVERCAST 0
VISIBILITY AT ACCIDENT SITE PRECIPITATION AT ACCIDENT SITE
ZERO RAIN
OBSTRUCTIONS TO VISION AT ACCIDENT SITE TEMPERATURE-F
UNKNOWN/NOT REPORTED 47
WIND DIRECTION-DEGREES WIND VELOCITY-KNOTS
220 8
TYPE OF WEATHER CONDITIONS TYPE OF FLIGHT PLAN
VFR VFR
REMARKS- IMPROPER NAV PROC. WEA INFO 1 HR OLD. RECOVERY DATE 5/25/76.
Full narrative is not available

Last Edited by RobertL18C at 06 Oct 19:23
Enstone (EGTN), Oxford (EGTK)
39 Posts
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