For more than 50 years I have watched aviation accidents as a pilot, instructor, injury attorney and investigator and have repeatedly seen the same accidents over and over and over and over. Pilot error, maintenance problems, low time pilots into high time problems and just plain bad judgement. The problem is that if you look at these accidents there is a standard “trend” that can be FIXED. It centers on one thing, training for the specific problem.
As an aviation attorney, my firm began years ago listing the general categories of aviation accidents and then breaking down those accidents into subsets. Each subset listed “can be fixed with training” or “can be fixed with maintenance and training the pilot to recognize the maintenance problem.” For instance, the Cessna 421, and some of the smaller aircraft have a major brake problem that no one recognizes even the mechanics miss this. That brings up another point. Most mechanics do not fly the planes and most pilots who fly these planes are definitely not mechanics. This creates a breakdown in the communication between the pilot and maintenance.
Further, a mechanic teaching a “maintenance” class can tell you how things work but they may not be able to tell you how to experience a failure on a particular item in flight. The reverse occurs when the pilot says “the ‘doohickey’ is acting stupid so you need to check it.” The mechanic says “ok I will work on the ‘doohickey’ when I pull it in.” Really? The story needs to be what is going on and how is it affecting the aircraft. Without spelling out the problem in details the problem may not get solved. I always tell clients when they are injured to tell us everything and let us work out what the problem is. I tell them if they think their hair is hurting from a serious accident, just tell us and let us work with the medical providers. We need to do the same with the maintenance personnel. Just describe everything that you think is wrong. Sometimes what you think is wrong is not even close to the real problem. Remember these are the strangest “animals” alive – AIRCRAFT.
We fly Twin Cessna Aircraft and many others, including turboprops and jets. For instance, in the Twin Cessna line we have sat in front of almost 1,000 pilots (some mechanics) and have listened to their “tales of woe” involving problems with the Twin Cessna line. At AST we have pretty well heard it all and we teach what to do and what not to do on a failure. A perfect example of this is a turbocharger failure and the decision to SHUT DOWN THE ENGINE. The answer is NO. You do not have to shut down an engine with a turbocharger failure. The turbocharger does not affect a failure of the mags, fuel pump, fuel controller, crankshaft, plugs, camshaft, lifters, alternators, waste-gate, over-boots, VAPC (or APC), propeller, governor, or the “nut behind the wheel.” Shutting down an engine with a TURBOCHARGER failure indicates that the pilot does not understand the systems of the aircraft. You never shut down a good engine on a turbocharger failure.
If you cannot identify a turbocharger failure AND THAT IT DOES NOT AFFECT THE POWERPLANT then you have problem number one, you do not understand how systems on these aircraft work. We educate on the systems and applying problems in the air to the systems. This is just an example of what not to do.
So if you don’t shut down an engine on a “turbocharger” failure, when do you shut down an engine? And that is what we came up with and numerous other failures and accidents that you CAN TRAIN FOR.
Alternator loss? Yes, that can be a problem. About 6 to 7 pilots out of 100 have lost engines with an alternator failure. Yes, we teach that. On our engine loss board at AST we have a pilot I trained years ago that lost an alternator and then recognized the engine failure. He is a very knowledgeable pilot and mechanic. He is involved in the corporate aircraft he flies.
Gear failures on the electric geared aircraft. Yes, you can detect the problem in the air. We teach that. There is a simple solution to a lot of these electric gears but pilots continually do the wrong thing trying to solve the “in the air” gear problem.
End of the runway, brake fails, what do you do before you run off the taxiway or runway with a steep drop off? Yes, we teach that.
Brake check on final. Oh no they are both “dead in the water.” (This double brake failure is almost an impossibility.) Yes, we teach that.
The proper way to apply brakes on a large aircraft such as a Twin Cessna on landings. Yes, there is a right and wrong way. It is not an automobile, it is an aircraft with vertical lift components on landing and tire loading that can be a variable. We teach this and what to do.
So what we have done at AST is to list these accidents we have worked with along with accidents we have reviewed over the years and put them into AST to teach “solutions.”
We have a “Master List” of accidents and what caused them. That “Master List” is rolled into our training programs on both our large pressurized aircraft and our turboprop aircraft. So if we know what caused the accidents we can teach pilots how to get “out of them”. Make a list, find the problems and teach the pilot how to solve the problem. It is that simple.
Finally, we own these planes and they sit in our hangars. If you own them for 25 years and fly them for the same amount of time you really understand their problems.
Train hard. Fly safe.