Out Of Control?


Your May 2015 issue exemplifies continued excellence by probing the contributing factors leading to aircraft accidents. Articles on icing, fueling, landings, situational awareness and IMC are likely activities that we experience every time we fly. My interest as a pilot and investigator is to focus on the factors that lead to human response errors.

In my view, the problem with Bob Wright’s article “Out Of Control” involves its complexity and the vast range of issues listed in the GAJSC Loss Of Control Work Group final report. The GAJSC document was an FAA document, which focused on multiple responses such as training syllabus and procedural issues.

I believe Rick Durden’s article, “IFR Training In IMC?” touches on the essence of situational awareness and error-prone responses. Humans make errors and pilots are human; accordingly, Mr. Durden speaks to issue awareness, followed by a five-stage human response (from denial to acceptance) and, finally, appropriate problem response(s).

A proactive example of countering human error involves how airlines reduced fatal accidents with pilot training applying standard responses to emergency conditions, thus turning “denial” reactions into normal flight responses. With that success in mind, it’s my opinion we should emphasize the GAJSC’s Loss of Control Working Group 2.0 Safety Enhancement 28 (SE-28), “Pilot Response to Unexpected Events.” If we did so, we could evaluate the contributing human factors issues involving Air France Flight 447, Colgan Air Flight 3407, Asiana Flight 214 and Trans-Asia Flight GE235.

Thanks again for your continued excellence.

Philip G. Potts
Via email

Dereg The Medical

I wholeheartedly agree with your stand on deregulating existing medical certificate requirements for pilots (“PBOR 2.0,” April). My reasons are several:

1. What the medical community thought about health standards 100, 50 or even 25 years ago are laughable today. What years’ standards are we being held to?

2. I doubt very much that the FAA has managed to prevent even one accident through its egregious medical standards. Instead, they have kept some very skilled pilots out of the cockpit.

3. The FAA has it backwards: When my AME approves my medical certificate application, his decision still is subject to being overridden by the FAA’s medical chiefs in Oklahoma City. It should be the other way around, so that when my AME fails to approve me, the FAA would appeal that decision on my behalf.

4. The system we have now gives the FAA much too much power—not just the medical examiners, but FAA inspectors also. Witness the Bob Hoover debacle of a few years ago, in which a couple of FAA inspectors viewed a performance by Bob Hoover and decided it was not up to par. They managed to send him through a gauntlet of unnecessary hardships. It wasn’t the first time, nor will it be the last, that inspectors have made erroneous medical judgments.

5. My medical examiner sees me for a couple of hours twice a year to determine whether I am medically fit to fly an airplane. Meanwhile, I determine my physical ability to fly almost every day. So who, really, is better at it?

6. We in the industry do not need physically fit supermen, but rather pilots of judgment and skill, neither of which the AME can determine.

7. When my AME and I, after further testing and treatment, gather all the required documents attesting to my being fit to fly an airplane, then the FAA will sit on the application for months on end, even though it states I am employed as a pilot and am therefore dependent on my piloting skills for an income.

8. Our system of requiring medical certificates for pilots has made an entire group of professionals afraid of going to the doctor, any doctor. Given that many ailments can be successfully treated if caught early, I find our system no less than criminal.

Name withheld by request

Local Knowledge

I have learned much over the years as a regular reader of Aviation Safety. I wanted to share some local knowledge: April’s Accident Probe (“Crossed Up”), exploring the April 19, 2013, Cessna 210 accident at Williamsburg, Va., neglected one point that is known to local fliers but perhaps left out of the NTSB report.

With the strong and gusty wind reported on the day of the event, terrain might have played a role. In the area of the downwind-to-final turn for Runway 13, where the accident occurred, there is a significant, steep-sided hill generating a good bit of short-lived downdrafts. This common area of turbulence may add to the stall potential during the slow, steep, cross-controlled turn you described.

This hill likely is too small to warrant notation on a IFR chart but large enough to give many a pilot a surprise sink rate on a windy day from the south. Additionally, Runway 13 is a downhill runway giving a misleading appearance during visual patterns.

In addition to the tailwind effect you explored very well, I believe another point to be learned from this accident is that when planning a landing in challenging weather at a smaller airport, local knowledge is valuable. Even very experienced pilots should consider calling the destination’s FBO or a local CFI to discuss any special concerns to consider. I certainly know landing at KJGG on a windy day is a very different proposition than at the many other nearby airports without obstructions near the field.


Paul Werbin
Via email

Soft Spot?

My reaction to April’s Learning Experience (“Soft Spot”) probably isn’t the one desired by the author. Rather than seeing his planning entry into the storm in consultation with ATC as prudent, many of his actions raise serious red flags for me. The pilot apparently had his wife with him to visit the in-laws, and his plan to traverse the storm system scared him “witless.” The actual trip through the storm was “bad, bumpy and rainy,” bad enough to flex the stout Hershey-bar wing on the rented Piper.

I don’t plan on following this example on any of my trips, especially those with a passenger. I also don’t foresee ever needing to get somewhere so urgently that risking the lives of those on board was justified with such an ill-advised course of action. The in-laws, after all, can wait, and I am sure they would be happy to if they knew the situation in which their son-in-law was putting their daughter.

The lesson for me is that I know I would have landed the plane somewhere safe and waited out the storm.

Chris E. Hansen

Via email


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