U.S. Department
of Transportation

Federal Aviation

St. Louis
Flight Standards District Office

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


January 2003 




Thought for the month.....
Luck will do for skill, but not consistently.

The Legacy of Irresponsibility.... Percentage-wise, the number of pilots who act in an irresponsible manner is not great. But, like the proverbial bad apple, it doesn't take many to spoil the reputation of the barrel. The fact that many of these individuals die by their own hands does not mitigate the harm they do to the rest of the aviation population.

In December, a pilot from the East Coast attempted to complete a flight to the Mid-west. You might recall that we had a white Christmas, courtesy of a vigorous front that moved through the area and dumped several inches of snow. It was nasty enough that the airlines were canceling flights that would have required them to fly through the line of weather. Despite that, the pilot elected to continue to press on in his single engine airplane, which was not equipped in any way for operations in icing conditions. It was actually remarkable that he managed to make it all the way into our district before the engine quit.

There's an old saying that God protects fools, drunks, and little children. The individual at the controls was not an intoxicated child, so I can only assume one thing if the adage is true. And it must be true because when the airplane popped out the bottom of the low overcast, it was lined-up with an open field bordered by power lines on one side, and an automobile junkyard on the other. All the pilot had to do was level the airplane and touchdown on the hard frozen surface, then roll to a stop just about dead-center between the obstacles. He couldn't have hit that spot on a checkride given 10 tries, but he hit it when it counted. If that doesn't qualify for divine intervention, nothing does.

By the time our inspectors arrived at the scene, it was getting dark and tough to take pictures because the falling snow reflected the flash and obscured the subject matter. It was pretty obvious however, why the airplane was sitting in that field. The coating of ice on the aircraft surfaces glistened in the fading twilight. It was the air intake, completely frozen shut, that caused the engine to quit running however. That was probably a good thing because if it had continued to run, the pilot would have undoubtedly kept flying until the airplane became so contaminated with ice that it couldn't fly any more. Then he might have spun down and crashed into a populated area.

One of the hazardous attitudes identified in aeronautical decision-making is invulnerability. Surely this pilot must have thought himself bulletproof. The fact that he and his passenger walked away from the landing unscathed has certainly reinforced his attitude. Luck will do for skill, but not consistently.

Unfortunately, all of us in general aviation are going to be painted by the actions of this person. All those people who resent flying as a "rich man's sport" populated by irresponsible daredevils, have new fuel for their arguments. The legacy of irresponsibility is a subtle dent in history, creating ill will and distrust of general aviation.

Upcoming Events

January 25th
28th Super Safety Seminar
St Louis University
Anheuser-Busch Auditorium
Lower level Cook Hall
(Click Me for Schedule & Directions)

February 5th
Night Operations and Disorientation
Langa Air Academy
St Louis Regional Airport
7PM to 9PM

February 9th
Balloon Instructor Seminar
Spectrum Balloon Port
641 Cepi Drive

February 20th
Icing for General Aviation Pilots
Hillbilly Junction Restaurant
Willow Sprints MO
7PM to 9PM

February 21st-22nd
IA Renewal Seminar
Collinsville Holiday Inn

February 22nd-23rd
Greater St Louis Flight Instructors Association
Flight Instructor Renewal Clinic
St Louis University

Operations Safety Program Manager
1-800-322-8876 extension 4835