NTSB preliminary reports do not draw conclusions as the cause of a crash.  But the NTSB’s preliminary report of the Turbine Otter crash that killed 9 near Ketchikan on June 25 suggests a weather-related “CFIT” crash, exactly as described here.

First, the report indicates that the flight was conducted under Visual Flight Rules.  That means

An instrument rating entitles a pilot to legally navigate an aircraft when the weather is bad enough that he can’t see outside.  A pilot who is not instrument-rated must always stay out of the clouds. If the weather is such that he can’t do that, he must stay on the ground.  

The training required to obtain an instrument rating is extensive.  In most cases, it takes a pilot longer and costs him more to obtain the rating than it did for him to get his pilot’s license in the first


Continue Reading Cirrus Crash Near Agua Dulce: Pilot Not Instrument-Rated

The Cirrus aircraft is loaded with advanced safety features lacking in older "legacy" aircraft.  Yet, the Cirrus safety record appears to be no better — and perhaps even worse — than that of the legacy fleet.  How can this be? 

I’ve written before that "risk homeostasis" may be one factor at work.  I suggested here and here that pilots might tend to use the advanced features of the aircraft to fly into more challenging conditions than they otherwise would.  While using the features in that fashion might increase the utility of the aircraft, it necessarily undercuts many of the features’ safety benefits.  

It turns out that that three human factors experts have published a short article (see below) on risk


Continue Reading Cirrus Safety and Risk Homeostasis

Most general aviation aircraft manufactured today come with "glass cockpits."  Instead of being equipped with mechanical gauges and indicators, they are equipped with computer screens.  The screens integrate and display all sorts of useful flight information.  The information displayed may include satellite weather, synthetic vision, infrared vision, terrain awareness information, traffic


Continue Reading NTSB: Glass Cockpits Associated With Higher Rate of Fatal Accidents

Cirrus aircraft are now available with "flight into known icing" (FIKI) capability.  That’s a great feature. I’ve written before, however, that Cirrus is asking for trouble with its marketing.  Cirrus sells the feature as one that both enhances safety and increases the aircraft’s utility.  But Cirrus can’t have it both ways.  If a

The Cirrus is a “new generation” aircraft loaded with safety features. For example, if a pilot flying after dark gets too close to a ridge line, the Cirrus’ on-board Terrain Awareness Warning System generates a voice urging him to “Pull Up! Pull Up!”  The plane’s wings secrete fluid that helps prevent them from icing up in poor weather. The cockpit has airbags, and its seats protect the passengers in a crash by absorbing 26 times the force of gravity.  The Cirrus is the only aircraft of its kind that comes with a rocket propelled parachute that can shoot out of the back of the plane in an emergency. Partly as a result of all its safety features, the Cirrus has become the most popular general aviation aircraft, with sales surpassing long-time industry leaders Cessna, Beechcraft, and Piper.

Critics, however, say that the aircraft has a lousy safety record, with a fatal accident rate significantly higher than the “old style” Cessnas and Beechcrafts. They say that the Cirrus, made mostly of fiberglass rather than the traditional aluminum, is not crashworthy. Not only does the


Continue Reading Recent Crashes Stoke Debate on Cirrus Safety