Aviation stories and tips to help you stay sharp.
By Dan Sobczak
Editor's note: This content does not constitute flight instruction. Consult a certified flight instructor in your area for proper flight instruction.
In a Cirrus SR-22 accident that killed a United States Air Force test pilot, NTSB ruled the probable cause was the pilot's uncoordinated flight control inputs and subsequent inadvertent cross-control aerodynamic stall in the airport traffic pattern that resulted in a loss of control and uncontrolled descent with insufficient altitude for recovery.
This accident is a prime example of the sometimes deadly consequences that can happen when a pilot fails to follow standard operating procedures, even one as experienced as a United States Air Force test pilot.
A photo of a Cirrus Aircraft SR-22 airplane, similar to the make/model involved in a crash of a United States Air Force test pilot when he was on approach to land. Source: cirrusaircraft.com.
NTSB reported the pilot entered the traffic pattern about 200' low, then flew a circling base-to-final pattern. As the airplane approached the extended runway centerline about 220' AGL, it was in a 48-degree bank. An NTSB study revealed the airplane was likely in a sideslip of 15 to 20 degrees during the final turn.
The Cirrus Pilot's Operating Handbook notes that extreme care must be taken to avoid uncoordinated or accelerated control inputs when close to the stall, especially when close to the ground. If, at the stall, the flight controls are misapplied and accelerated inputs are made to the elevator, rudder and/or ailerons, an abrupt wing drop may be felt and a spiral or spin may be entered.
If a United States Air Force test pilot can end up in the crash of a small general aviation airplane -- a pilot with all the flight experience and training in standard operating procedures that test pilots accumulate -- how much more at risk is the rest of the general aviation pilot population?
A key lesson from this accident is the importance of following standard operating procedures for your aircraft.
But beyond that, this accident -- and others like it -- got us thinking.
One reason we started Flight Chain App is because we were surprised by a flight instructor's observation who, after more than 40 years of flying, was amazed at how many pilots of various experience levels — from brand new student pilots to aviators with years of flight experience — aren't aware of the value of NTSB reports. His comment struck a chord: not enough pilots understand the value of accident reports.
We created Flight Chain App to give you accident information that's convenient and easy to digest.
Even after the launch of our app, we kept wondering -- what other ways can we reach more pilots with safety information, and have more impact when we reach them?
Flight Chain App 1.12 is available now for download on the App Store. This release includes a new 'Safety Quiz' feature that lets pilots quiz themselves with questions based on actual NTSB accident reports.
It's another step in our continued effort to make it easier for pilots to learn from accident chains and NTSB reports.
A screenshot from Flight Chain App version 1.12 showing its new 'Safety Quiz' feature, where pilots can quiz themselves with questions based on actual NTSB accident reports, NTSB statistics and other aviation topics.
Pilots can quiz themselves with questions based on actual NTSB accident reports, NTSB statistics and other aviation topics.
Flight Chain App's 'Safety Quiz' covers important areas of flight that have been a factor in aviation accidents. VFR into IMC -- which can lead to deadly results from spatial disorientation, loss of control, controlled flight into terrain (CFIT), and aerodynamic stalls/spins at different phases of flight -- is one example of quiz questions derived from actual NTSB accident reports.
Other quiz questions gathered from accident reports cover accidents involving density altitude, fuel management, midair collisions, and the 'impossible turn' -- that is, when a pilot attempts to make a 180-degree turn back to the airport when trouble emerges immediately after takeoff.
This new 'Safety Quiz' feature is available for all users of the app: no in-app subscription required.
Good pilots review often what they learn, as repetition is part of the learning process.
This Air Force pilot's unfortunate accident seems to reinforce what the authors of an Aviation Safety Reporting System study in 2003 wrote: "The risk of memory errors is greatly reduced when aviation operations are strictly proceduralized and overlearned." (Human Memory and Cockpit Operations: An ASRS Study)
In other words, the more you learn, the more you need to remember what you've learned.
By reviewing NTSB accident reports -- and understanding the lessons learned from them -- such repetition can help you stay ahead of the power curve when you need it most.
As the authors of the Handbook of Aviation Human Factors wrote: "Repetition is crucial for acquiring and maintaining skills."
The Flight Chain App team
Dan Sobczak is the founder of www.FlightChainApp.com, a mobile app that helps pilots learn from accident chains by making NTSB reports more convenient and easier to digest. Dan received his private pilot certificate in 2003.
Flight Chain App and its companion blog www.AheadOfThePowerCurve.com are committed to reducing general aviation accidents, helping improve aviation safety, and growing the pilot population.
The only NTSB aviation accident app in the App Store that helps you see and understand the accident chain.
For iPhone and iPad.
Flight Chain App and its blog Ahead of the Power Curve are committed to reducing general aviation accidents, helping improve aviation safety, and growing the pilot population.