GA safety

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Hi all-

I am considering slowly beginning to work towards my license. I'm
actually planning a 30-min intro flight to get into the cockpit and
make sure I want to commit.

I did not realize, however, that GA was (depending on the stats)
significantly more dangerous than driving, potentially even over
long distances. I'm interested in hear everyone's thoughts, and
hoping that maybe there is a way to look at the stats to make me
feel a little more confident.

-- Ryan P, October 17, 2007


You might want to read

Regarding the Killing Zone book below... I don't believe that there is a magic number of hours after which someone becomes safe. Nor do I think that low time pilots are unsafe. Some people have very unsafe attitudes and/or mental deficits that make them accident-prone. Thanks to flight training, FAA regulations, the forgivingness built into the system, it will nonetheless take some hundreds of flights before the combination of unsafe attitude and bad luck leads to an accident. Most of the guys who died at 350 hours were always going to be unsafe, even if they had survived another few hundred flights. The reason that they made it to 350 hours is that they had reasonably good luck (e.g., they didn't get a weather briefing but there happened not to be any thunderstorms).

Just think about the math. A complete incompetent will probably only have a 0.25 percent chance of killing himself on any given flight. He is not going to die during his first 100 hours because he will have an instructor supervising his flying. After that it will still take 200+ hours before you'd expect a serious accident.

I've signed off student pilots and thought "this guy will never have an accident." I've flown 10 trips around the pattern in an R44 with a Commercial helicopter and airplane pilot. I had pulled the gauges circuit breaker so the fuel gauges were showing empty and the indicated pressures and temps were all at 0. He did landings to a full set down on the runway (very quiet little uncontrolled airport). He picked the helicopter up. He took off and flew patterns 10 times like this. I made no attempt to distract him. Finally I had him set the helicopter down and asked him what some possible causes of engine stoppage might be. His response was "cylinder head temperature too high?" Even when I finally asked him to look at the fuel gauges (both reading below empty) he said that they seemed fine to him.

Oh yes, the guy earlier had set the altimeter to approximately 900' below sea level. When I pointed this out, he reset it to 1900' below seat level. This was on the ground at Hanscom with the engine not yet started. Took him 5 minutes to learn that 28" of mercury wasn't a likely barometer reading on a severe clear blue sky day.

So here is a guy who presumably takes off most of time without looking at any gauges and yet has never run out of fuel or lifted an aircraft with a broken engine. But one day he presumably will. I refused to sign him off to be a pilot in command of an R44. Another instructor did, though, satisfied by the guy's ability to do an autorotation (an ability that I suspect he may need!).

-- Philip Greenspun, October 17, 2007

Maybe you should order the book "the killing zone" how and why pilots die from paul a. craig i'm in my PPL training and have around 50 hours so far, most pilots kill themself when they have around 50 to 350 hours.

You have 7 times more chance to kill yourself in a plane than in a car. I qoute the book:

" flying is safe, but of course it all depends on your definition of safety, nothing that humans do is safe.. in 1972 the US Supreme court ruled that : safe is not the equivalent of riks free"

If you are looking for people who will tell you you will not kill yourself while you will do training and be a pilot you are wrong and then being a pilot is nothing for you...

good luck

-- yves soete, October 17, 2007

You are as safe flying GA as you want to and insist on being. It's up to you. Flying with some pilots, I truly feel safer in a helicopter than I do driving on the Beltway/interstate. With others, I'd feel safer pointing a loaded gun at my head. Best Wishes, Mark Dalton

-- Mark Dalton, October 18, 2007