Scruggs' Accident: Was Pilot's Warning Adequate?

The pilot says he warned Lauren Scruggs away from his propeller.   According to the NTSB's preliminary report:

After [the pilot] opened the door, [Scruggs] started to get out of the airplane.Aviat Husky Upon noticing that she was exiting in front of the strut, the pilot leaned out of his seat and placed his right hand and arm in front of her to divert her away from the front of the airplane and the propeller. He continued to keep his arm extended and told [Scruggs] that she should walk behind the airplane. Once he saw that [Scruggs] was at least beyond where the strut was attached to the wing, and walking away, he dropped his right arm and returned to his normal seat position. The pilot then looked to the left side of the airplane and opened his window to ask who was next to go for a ride.

The pilot then heard someone yell, "STOP STOP," and he immediately shut down the engine and saw [Scruggs] lying in front of the airplane.

While the pilot apparently tried to keep Scruggs from the propeller, it wasn't enough.  Sadly, the accident likely would have been avoided had the pilot followed the the general safety guidelines set forth here.

  • The aircraft engine should be shut down before boarding or deplaning passengers. This is the simplest method of avoiding accidents. Unfortunately, the pilot elected to keep his engine running.
  • The pilot should instruct passengers, before they exit an aircraft with an engine(s) running, the path to follow to avoid the propeller or rotor blades. The pilot apparently failed to instruct Scruggs of the path to follow before she exited the plane.  Once she had exited the airplane, given the noise, he was left to rely on crude hand signals to get his message across.
  • When it is necessary to discharge a passenger from an aircraft on which an engine is running, never stop the aircraft with the propeller in the path of the passenger's route from the aircraft. Apparently, in this case, the propeller was in the path of the deplaning passenger's travel.


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Scott - January 23, 2012 6:25 PM

At first I was saying, “how could this happen” but now I’m starting to see how this can happen and by the other two accounts you linked to in the other article this happens way too often.

I was in a helo company in the Marine Corps infantry and we would conduct night operations sometimes in the Ch-53 which has a tail rotor and we would never get close to that thing. But as I remember not only in boot camp on the rifle range but before every live fire range and any training operation after it would be drilled in our heads safety first, safety first, safety first. Also one of the higher ups would hold a safety brief because they were the safetly officer that day or week and really the list goes on related to safety. I don’t know how these flights were organized but I think the pilot before the first flight should have held a safety brief/meeting and of course don’t keep the engine running under any circumstance.

Another thing we were taught before night operations even if we had night vision devices we always waited 30 minutes for our eyes to adjust and stayed away from bright lights. So I guess night conditions and loud engine noise contributed to the accident. But there could be another reason after looking at the picture of the aircraft you posted in this article. That paint scheme has black on the nose which obviously is harder to see in the dark then white or yellow not that the plane had the same paint scheme but it could have been just another contributing factor in this accident.

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