Mission Statement for all Phases of Flight
A pilot's attitude can be his or her most valuable asset, or his or her greatest liability. Every decision made
is influenced by attitude. It's no news flash that human factors are the number one cause of all aircraft
accidents. But the implications of this fact are sobering: this week, somewhere, an aircraft will crash and people
will die. If that aircraft had a different pilot with a different attitude, that aircraft might not crash, and
those people might not die.
Note: I did not say a better pilot; I said a pilot with a different attitude. Of course, a better attitude would
make him or her a better pilot, but not in the sense we often think of when we say "better pilot" (like being a
"good stick"). The attitude we're talking about would include characteristics like conservative, cautious,
inquisitive, proactive, pragmatic, professional, decisive, and informed, to name a few.
Pilots need to realize that most of the tools needed to be a good, exceptionally safe pilot, are within them,
right this minute. To access these tools a pilot need only make a commitment to being professional. Not a
professional in the sense of someone who is paid. There are plenty of pilots who are paid to fly airplanes but are
not very professional. I mean professional in the sense of an attitude and a demeanor that is real and
uncompromising. Now, it is not uncommon for people to occasionally drive over the speed limit, or continue driving
their car in very heavy rain or snow. Both of these activities elevate the risk associated with driving. But, if we
as pilots carry this same attitude into the cockpit, we are not going to last long. A
plane ride should not resemble a weekend boat ride. It is not the same thing. Aviation is very unforgiving to those
who push the limits.
Pilots should make a commitment to constantly improve themselves. This includes spending some time reading about
human factors in flight. Before every flight, a pilot should be able to recognize the outside factors (stress,
money, commitments, etc...) that will effect their decisions. Recognize when your day is starting to resemble
something you read in an NTSB report and with the authority as the Captain and the demeanor of a professional, say,
Professionalism—No company, no one individual, can appoint you a
"professional". You're not hired by an airline one day and suddenly "professional" the next day.
Professionalism is not a destination you reach; professionalism is something that exists inside of you, and
you bring it to everything you do.
Many flights have a purpose other than just to "go fly." When the purpose is just to "go fly," it's
sometimes easier to keep the flight in perspective. If, say, the weather is terrible, you know it's just not going
to be any fun to fly today. So why bother? When we use the aircraft as a transportation tool, however, weighing
that decision can become more and more difficult. So much of the time, the factors that effect our decisions have
nothing to do with aviation; they have to do with life and a million different variables.
This section of Flight Analysis includes a short training scenario. It only takes about 10
minutes, and it's just for fun. The purpose is not to show right from wrong, but instead to highlight the fact that
many decisions are not aviation-based. Take from it what you will. Click on the picture below to begin
Story of continued VFR into IFR conditions...
On April 12, 2002, about 1750 eastern daylight time, a Piper PA-28-181, was substantially damaged when it impacted
terrain near Gardiner, New York. The certificated private pilot and passenger were fatally injured. Instrument
meteorological conditions prevailed for the personal cross-country flight that originated from the Joseph Y. Resnik
Airport (N89), Ellenville, New York, about 1730, destined for the Northampton Airport (7B2), Northampton,
Massachusetts. No flight plan was filed, and the flight was conducted under 14 CFR Part 91.
History of flight:
The pilot and passenger flew to the Wilkes Barre Scranton International Airport (AVP), Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania,
from Northampton, which was the airplane's home airport. After departing Wilkes Barre for the flight home, the
pilot made an unscheduled stop at Ellenville.
After making an unscheduled stop due to weather, the airplane departed on the accident flight. Once
airborne, the airplane proceeded to the north towards mountainous terrain. No information regarding the route of
flight was obtained for the airplane after it left the airport environment. The wreckage was located approximately
140 feet from the top of a 1,220-foot ridgeline, and about 10 miles east of the departure airport. The start of the
debris path was marked by freshly broken tree branches at the top of a 60-foot tree. A path of freshly broken
branches approximately 340 feet long connected the initial tree strikes to the main wreckage. The path was on a
magnetic heading of 140 degrees, and had a down angle of approximately 2 degrees. At the time of the accident, the
ridge was obscured by clouds, and the visibility was approximately 500 feet. Examination of the wreckage revealed
no preimpact failures or malfunctions with either the airframe or engine.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
The pilot-in-command's failure to maintain sufficient altitude while maneuvering in a mountainous area, which
resulted in a collision with terrain. Factors in the accident were, mountainous terrain, clouds, and the pilot's
decision to continue the flight in deteriorating weather.