November 2009 Issue

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Low-level maneuvering flight can put you and the airplane in a position from which neither can recover.

Each year, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation (AOPA/ASF) releases its excellent Nall Report, a review of a previous year’s accidents and causes, taken from NTSB data. And each year when perusing the report, we find pilot-related accidents—as opposed to mechanicals or unknown causes—to lead the pack by an overwhelming margin. In 2006, the last year for which the AOPA/ASF has crunched the NTSB data, pilot-related causes comprised 73.8 percent of all accidents and a whopping 79.1 percent of fatals. In fact, from 1999 through 2006, inclusive, maneuvering has accounted for approximately 25 percent of all accidents in the U.S. The annual numbers vary, but never dip below 20 percent and too-frequently arch above 25 percent. Breaking down the numbers, we find maneuvering accidents as a whole—which AOPA/ASF says "often involve questionable pilot judgment, such as decisions to engage in buzzing, low passes, or other high-risk activities"—outpaced all other fatal accident causes in 2006, including weather and those occurring during the descent/approach flight phases.

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