Safety in the Skies?

My father flew for 55 years without any accidents. He even survived the beginning of jet aviation, when the DOD (Dept. of Defense) rushed to bring B-66s on the line but didn’t have enough engines so they used 5-hour missile engines in them. Maintenance was a constant challenge and everyone was still learning about flight, limits and jets. At my father’s base, they averaged one crash per month. My father survived that era by diligence and constant vigilance, so I believe if you are very careful, extensively and properly trained, you too can be safe in the sky — and even coming down from it.

The pilots who flew in the beginning of jet aviation believed the risk was an acceptable sacrifice. The servicemen had the motto to accomplish the mission or die trying. Nowadays, people think it’s hard to fly. At least we have a century of learning behind us. It’s safer than ever before. Researchers strive to make it even safer. Statistically, it’s more dangerous to boat than to fly. 672 people per year die in boating accidents. Only 472 in aviation accidents. (More than 33,000 in car accidents so stay away from those abominations and get up in the sky.)

The sacrifices to aviation in the beginning helped create a wealth of knowledge for us today. The B-66 pilots who suffered the attitude gyro going out in zero/zero weather are the ones who taught us we need a back-up turn coordinator in every cockpit. It was such a feat that my father lived through a takeoff with no visibility and a bouncing, spinning attitude gyro that his commander didn’t believe the instrument had failed — until it happened to him. He told his young lieutenant that he was just scared in IFR conditions. (In case you’re wondering: My father lived through that by pulling up to the point of stall buffet and keeping the bomber right at the buffet until he reached VFR on top -– at 30,000 feet!) It’s this trial and error of the pioneers of aviation that gave us so many safety precautions and technology.

But it’s still up to you how safe you’ll be -– how much time you’re willing to spend going the extra mile. The minimum hours to become a pilot are just 40 flight hours. Most take longer than that, but I do know pilots who passed in 40 hours flat. This says nothing of the amount of time they spend studying. And as every examiner says, a pilot’s license is only a license to learn.

That is the truth. What have you learned about flying after becoming a pilot?

If 80% of accidents are pilot error (see my blog:  Terror) then we still have a bit to learn. Whatever you do, don’t do it FlyGirl Jill’s way. Read FlyGirl 🙂

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