Glassy Water

Lesson One - Glassy Water

1. It appears this accident was not caused by mechanical error. Lee had just taken off in his Super Cub on floats from Lake Hood in Anchorage. Within three minutes he was turning around to return to Lake Hood because he decided the fog was thicker than he thought (according to his last transmission to the tower). He was only about 200 feet above the water when he started his turn. Witnesses said it looked like he made a 90-degree bank and dove into the water. If so, this means he performed a descending turn over glassy water which, you remember, is an absolute no-no. But this glassy water was not the classic mirror reflection, but the gray muddy water of Cook Inlet, which merged with the fog. Perhaps he didn’t recognize it as glassy. It didn’t take long for the airplane to disappear under the water. With the nose and most of the wings under the water, the tail was sticking above for only a few seconds before it too went under. To date, neither the airplane, nor the body of the pilot has been found.

2. He didn’t fly enough to keep current. He did not practice a 180-degree turn, and most significantly as he turned, he didn’t practice adding back pressure to keep from losing altitude. He intimated when I told him to call me for his BFR, that he had found someone else who was “easier.” Pilots, doctors, and successful business people have good-size egos. They like to hear they’re doing well. That’s okay if they are, but what if they’re not. It’s safer to hear you need to work on something(s) that may save your life, than to have a pat on the back.

3. Procedure discipline, e.g. following the rules of flying, following the limits of your particular aircraft, following the laws of physics, is critical. Pilots, who have flown for a long time, but not commercially, sometimes grow lazy, sloppy, and unsafe. There is a reason behind BFR’s. Don’t treat them as an unnecessary requirement which the FAA just made up. Treat a BFR like other professionals do who are required to take recurrent training in their fields in order to maintain their licenses. This goes for you too.

Safe Flying — Keep the Shiny Side Up — Be Procedure Oriented

See you on the water.