U.S. Department
of Transportation

Federal Aviation

St. Louis
Flight Standards District Office

10801 Pear Tree Lane
Suite 200
St. Ann, Missouri 63074


April 2005




Thought for the month.....
"Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven."
William Shakespeare

Turning Up Training to Turn Down Accidents... The good news is that 2004 turned out to be a good year with respect to general aviation accidents. The total number of accidents was the lowest it's ever been. One reason that fact is so impressive is that as we move toward lower and lower accident rates, we dig deeper and deeper into the human element. Technological advances have certainly made a difference, but technology can only get us so far. As long as there's a human at the controls, errors are going to be made…that's why good training is still the best way to prevent accidents.

The truth is, we spend a lot of time training for the least likely events. For example, we spend time training and practicing for an engine failure. Engines do fail and it's important to know what to do if that happens, but a lot of engine failures can be traced to a history of neglect and mistreatment. The likelihood of a modern well-maintained aircraft engine failing and causing an accident is pretty slim. On the other hand, the likelihood of a VFR pilot continuing into IMC and becoming an accident statistic is relatively high. How much training is specifically directed toward preventing this type of accident? To advance safety, we need to train beyond what we fly, and look more closely at how we fly.

Some manufacturers have gotten the message. One of the first companies to begin dealing directly with the issue was the Robinson Helicopter Company. When the R-22 helicopter began production, the number of accidents related to pilots not knowing the aircraft and how to properly use it, started climbing. The R-22 is a unique aircraft with some pretty tight limitations that must be respected. The company decided the best way to handle the problem was to bring operators to the factory for ground and flight training in the helicopter. The accident rate dropped dramatically.

Manufacturers of the new generation of "personal" jets are going in a similar direction. The new technology they're building into the aircraft is only as good as the operator, so people who want to buy these aircraft will receive training in them before they launch skyward into the DRVSM. Well, that's great for those folks, but what if you are flying a 1962 Cessna 172 and the newest technology on it is a venturi tube and a directional gyro? What can we do to improve training in that aircraft that will help lower the accident rate?

The buzzword is scenario-based training and it is a process we're trying to drive home to flight instructors. Business as usual will not lower the accident rate. It's time to move beyond just knowing the aircraft, and start training on how we will really fly the aircraft! Can I actually climb to altitude and properly lean the mixture to get maximum range? Can I call Flight Service enroute, change my destination, update weather, and check any NOTAMs? Can I identify and fly through any airspace out there and operate safely at both towered and non-towered airports? There will still be plenty of reasons for flying circuits and practicing takeoffs and landings, but for a lot of the training, the better way is using real situations to teach the thinking skills necessary for safe operations.

An example of a training scenario might be to takeoff from airport A, fly to B for takeoffs and landings, then a divert to C with a simulated maintenance issue on the way back home. This might include contacting AFSS with a flight plan change, and getting current NOTAMs and weather for airport C. Then, while on the ground at C, going through the process of dealing with a maintenance problem. Maybe if the trainer is really sharp and has done some advanced coordination with a maintenance technician at airport C, that technician can teach the student what maintenance record entries are required if repairs are made or if a discrepancy is deferred. What a great learning experience all in one training period. Instead of cramming more learning periods into the day, cram more learning into the period! The more we turn up the training, the more we will turn down the accidents. "Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven." Who knew Shakespeare was a pilot!

Upcoming Events

April 4
Keith's Café
Memphis, MO
Light Sport Aircraft and Runway Safety
7 to 9 p.m.

May 7
St. Louis Science Center
5050 Oakland Ave.
8:45 a.m. to see "Fighter Pilot" in the Omnimax Theater
Technically Advanced Aircraft at 10:00 in the Planetarium Theater

May 12
Maryland Heights Centre
2344 McKelvey Rd
Maryland Heights, MO
Working CFI Seminar
8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

May 21
EAA Hangar
St. Charles Co.
Smartt Field
EAA Sport Pilot Tour
8:00 a.m.

Register at http//faasafety.gov for E-mail notification of safety seminars in the St. Louis District.

Let's Not Meet By Accident
Fred Harms
Operations Safety Program Manager
800-322-8876 ext 4835