power lines on the ridge
The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
statistics for any particular year during the past two decades include a
list of the most frequent causal factors for
general aviation accidents.
The troubling point of these statistics is
that the same things are causing the same accidents year after year. This
points out the need for continued refresher training to establish a higher
level of flight proficiency for all pilots.
Doesn’t this remind you of the saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on
me.” It should bother us that we, as pilots, are unable to
learn from the mistakes of others.
The first item on the NTSB’s top ten
list is “inadequate pre-flight preparation and/or
planning,” that denotes we must spend time thinking about the
flight extend into the night? Do I need a flashlight? Is the
destination airport lighted? Are services available at my time of
What if I
run into a venturi effect over the mountains? Will I have enough
fuel to continue the flight to the destination?
un-forecast weather crops up, where will I go? What will I
These examples show that pre-flight planning
is not just a matter of digging out the plotter and computer.
The next item on the NTSB list is
“landing accidents—excessive speed on the landing roll or failure
to correct for crosswind conditions.”
The third item is “continued VFR
flight into adverse weather conditions.” Each year some 200
accidents are listed under this category. The really sad part about this
is about 65 percent of these accidents are fatal.
How do these accidents occur when everyone
knows that pushing the weather on a VFR flight is not wise?
Is it that the pilot cannot recognize
“adverse weather conditions” from a distance and unintentionally gets in
the weather? Most times intentional scud running is the main
culprit. Those scattered clouds that are easily flown around in open
country can be a menace in a narrow canyon. Yet pilots continue to scud
run. And, not all of them are low-time pilots who haven’t learned better.
Some are high-time pilots—maybe instrument-rated—and mostly of sound
Flying above a layer of clouds
with the sun at your back will produce a "glory" if the cloud is composed
of liquid water. This rainbow circle is caused by a diffraction
phenomenon. Beware of icing in these clouds if the outside air temperature
is near freezing or below freezing.
Often the aircraft's shadow is
visible in the centre of the "glory" rainbow ring.
Some pilots scud run successfully, having
found it necessary to do so from time to time because of ice or turbulence
aloft, strong headwinds at IFR altitudes, navigation equipment failures,
or flying to a destination that does not have an instrument approach
Whatever the reason, they do it. But, they have disciplined
themselves and learned how to scud run safely.
Experienced pilots develop rules that
they will not deviate from under any circumstances.
weather: 2,000-foot ceiling and 5 miles visibility. If weather
reports of five miles visibility or better do not exist at stations
beyond the destination, don’t
Do not scud
run a route you have not previously flown at 1,500 feet AGL or less.
Even so, the terrain looks much different when the weather is
Do not scud
run toward worsening weather. The tendency to push on for a few more
miles is just too great.
One frightening pilot technique unconsciously
practiced by many pilots when the weather is marginal is that of flying
near the cloud base. This is a natural tendency since it places the
airplane farther away from the ground. But, you have to realize the
forward visibility will be severely limited near the cloud base, allowing
you to fly into trouble before you can see it.
An experienced pilot will fly low.
the area from the ground to the cloud base into thirds and fly the middle
or lower third. If terrain constraints prohibit this, don’t
navigation simple by following a highway or railroad. Pay attention
to your chart to make sure there isn’t a tunnel. Be cautious about
following a river. That’s where the poorest visibilities tend to
Turn on all
your lights. It’s not likely that anyone else will be out there with
you, but if they are, you want them to see and avoid your airplane.
When flying through a narrow canyon like The Gorge between Portland
and The Dalles, Ore., it is customary to remain to the right side,
just as on a highway, to avoid pilots going the other
back to a comfortable slow-speed cruise to keep the terrain features