Something New Every Day
"And there I
was, with my fuel gauges on empty, the
cloud below me, the mountains below the
clouds, and I was lost. The
old pilot looked around the group for a
reaction. No one spoke. No one believed
him, or had already been there and done
that. Just another story at the
I cant begin
to count the near death experiences of
pilots I hear. Guys who have had
engine failures over water, electrical
failures at night ... in IMC, hit other
aircraft in flight, got lost in cloud,
were forced down in snow, departed
from a 900 foot strip with twice the
legal weight on board, barely cleared 3
foot trees at the end of the runway ....
the stories go on and on. Each
time it gets told, the details get
better. Makes you wonder what really
Any pilots wife
could tell you the real story. Or
something very close to it. She heard the
first account, and by the time the
husband has told it to five or ten more
people, she must wonder if it was the
same incident he was talking about.
Ever notice that?
There are several
publications that carry these first
person accounts of accidents,
incidents and close calls.
Theyre actually quite valuable in
that the reader probably learns something
from the mistakes of the pilots who write
them. Statistics show that
theres a very high percentage of
human error involved in the total number
of accidents that occur. Its
funny how so many of these published
stories allude to the other
factors of the authors particular
incident. Sometimes though, the writer
will face up to the fact that he made a
mistake. A guy who does that should be
admired. Hes man enough to
let his rear hang out for all to see and
laugh at. Many readers, privately
or with their buddies, gloat over the
fact that nothing like that would ever
happen to them. But some pilots,
and I count myself in this group,
appreciate the honesty, and will admit to
learning from the experience of others.
So lets encourage the
continuation of submissions from these
Most pilots will
never experience a close call or an
incident which warrants a discussion with
Transport Canada. They go through
their entire careers with nothing worthy
of contributing to a magazine.
Think of your own little mistakes, like
taking off with the carb heat selected to
ON, dialing up a wrong frequency,
forgetting to put the transponder on ALT,
failing to lock a cowling lever down,
leaving a flight plan open .... and there
are countless others. Every little
oversight doesnt necessarily lead
to an accident. Its only
when theyre not dealt with properly
that things can go wrong. A door
unlatched for instance, shouldnt
cause the aircraft to crash on takeoff.
But we know that it has happened.
Using an incorrect frequency is in
itself, not a cause for a mid-air
collision. But again, it has been
know to happen.
The longer we fly
without bad things happening to us, the
more complacent we become. Checklists can
become so routine so as to be irrelevant.
So much gets taken for granted,
that one day, it will all bite you.
Your airplane is nothing more than
a cannibal in that regard. Just waiting,
patiently watching for that little
mistake, oversight or lazy procedure.
Read the TSB reports that are
available to all each month. Keep
on talking, and listening at your local
Heed the lessons offered by those
with enough courage to write about their
dumb mistakes and oversights in those
first person accounts.
Dont laugh at them. We can
all learn something. A bad day is
the day we fail to make a new discovery.
Or, as is more commonly stated
.... you learn something new every day.
But only if your mind is open to