Flight Training - January 2015 - 50

ADVANCED PILOT»

ACCIDENT ANALYSIS

Own it

Just tell the truth
» By David Jack Kenney

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SEVERAL YEARS AGO, Flight Training discussed an accident in which an
instructor allowed a Cessna 172 to run
out of fuel on a short flight to practice
pattern work at a neighboring airport (see "Not Quite Enough," March
2010 Flight Training). That instructor
subsequently emailed the editors to
complain about this presentation of the
story, maintaining that some unspecified
mechanical failure must have caused the
engine to quit. Maybe. But the airplane's
tanks were intact, the surrounding foliage showed no signs of staining or blight,
and the amount of fuel recovered from
the wreck was less than the quantity
listed as "unusable" for that model.
In exactly the same vein, a helicopter instructor dismissed his student's
concerns about their fuel supply on a dual
cross-country, only to have the engine quit
two miles shy of their home field. The CFI
wasn't able to prevent main rotor rpm-
the most critical variable in any helicopter
emergency-from decaying below the
threshold required for a stable autorotation, and the hard landing that resulted
caused the main rotor to sever the tail
boom. The CFI blamed the loss of rotor
speed on a faulty sprag clutch, the mechanism designed to disengage the rotor
system from the engine when the latter

A DIVISION OF THE
AOPA FOUNDATION
50 /

FLIGHTTRAINING.AOPA.ORG

began to falter. Maybe. But an inspection
afterward found nothing wrong with the
clutch. And only unusable fuel was recovered from the wreckage.
It's painful to acknowledge having
goofed, but it might be the right thing to
do. In 2014, Air Safety Institute staff spent
a day with the senior staff of the National
Transportation Safety Board discussing
data quality and learning how the NTSB
conducts its investigations. When an
accident is serious, causing loss of life
or major property damage, its process is
rigorous and exacting. Every potential
cause that can be eliminated is; the truth
rests among those that remain. Less
severe events get less concentrated attention, leaving room for interested parties
to prevaricate.
When asked how AOPA could help, one
field investigator-himself an AOPA member-responded, "Just ask people to tell
the truth. If you admit you ran out of gas,
we'll save weeks of time and thousands of
dollars we'd otherwise spend taking the
aircraft apart to prove that nothing broke."
It might be even more public-spirited to
save them all that trouble by not running
out of fuel in the first place.
Stockholm syndrome? ASI statistician David Jack
Kenny admits to having friends at the NTSB.


http://www.eFIRC.com http://FLIGHTTRAINING.AOPA.ORG

Flight Training - January 2015

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Flight Training - January 2015

Contents
Flight Training - January 2015 - Cover1
Flight Training - January 2015 - Cover2
Flight Training - January 2015 - Contents
Flight Training - January 2015 - 2
Flight Training - January 2015 - 3
Flight Training - January 2015 - 4
Flight Training - January 2015 - 5
Flight Training - January 2015 - 6
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Flight Training - January 2015 - Cover3
Flight Training - January 2015 - Cover4
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