Super Cub on Floats Landing Alaska

Lesson Six - It Could Happen To Me

If this could happen to Terry, could it happen to me? This is a question that has haunted my mind since this accident happened.

On December 26, 2012, it will be fifty years since I took my first flying lesson. I really want to make it to my 50th year of flying. If it happened to Terry COULD it happen to me, to you? The scary answer is YES. It definitely could. We do not know what was going through the pilot’s mind the minutes before the crash. We will never know!

The NTSB will investigate. They will come up with theories and possibilities. The FAA will have their own. Will all of their investigation prevent the same thing happening to us? NO!

Only we, you and I, can prevent this kind of accident from happening to us.

What can we do? Maurice Hendrickson, one of my many Anchorage FSDO inspectors said to me. “I have never investigated a CFIT (Controlled flight into terrain) accident when the WX was 500 and 2.” As pilots, we must have the strictest of discipline.

We all know it is regulatory “to familiarize yourself with all available information”. We know the importance of preflight preparation or planning. Usually, we think of preflight as being about the A/C, the WX, correct charts, fuel, etc.

There’s one more essential component – the pilot. More importantly, we must preflight ourselves. And be honest at it. Are we fit for flight? Following the engine failure in my C-206 when I rolled it up in a ball in a burnt-out forest, I insisted that a safety pilot go with me on my next few flights. (See Lesson Three above.)

I was scared. I was nervous. I was not ashamed or afraid to admit it to anyone who would listen. It has been three years now and I still jump every time a little anomaly happens when I am flying.

At our flight school and a charter company, we have a strict rule: three mistakes in a day and we shut down and have a standby (stand down?). We do not take into consideration flights on the schedule, etc. We shut down, have a break, take a nap, whatever it takes to start fresh. Usually, an hour or two will satisfy. Now how often do we do this? Certainly not often, but once or so every year, and it’s kept us safe. We just DO IT. Discipline…Discipline. It works.

Again, what can we do to prevent this from happening to us? Before pre-flighting the airplane and before doing your flight planning, preflight yourselves. Be aware of the power of subliminal concerns. Business problems, marriage problems, job problems, financial problems, especially in this economy, and health concerns.

At 100 mph or 500 mph, any stray thought away from the flight can have you end up as an NTSB Report.

Fly safe.