Three stupid mistakes that killed pilots

Flying is much safer than many non-pilots realize, so long as you use common sense and good judgment. Recently, the All Things Aviation blog noted the three following stupid and yet easily preventable mistakes that had fatal consequences for both pilot and passenger(s):

Incident #1: Being inexperienced and flying in poor weather conditions

In the first incident, an inexperienced New Jersey based pilot and his son were killed after flying in overcast conditions. According to All Things Aviation:

The pilot, Thaddeus Lazowski, held a Private Pilot certificate with an airplane single engine land rating which he obtained in 2004. He was not instrument rated. His total time was 395 hours, including 308 hours in the Piper Arrow.

Max Trescott also blogged extensively about this incident and concluded that the pilot was flying on both luck and hope. 

Incident #2: Flying without a license or current medical clearance and having incomplete aircraft maintenance records

In the second incident, a 59 year old British pilot known for giving his passengers a “thrill” in the air ended up killing himself and his two passengers. Upon investigation:

It was discovered that Mr. Matthews, a pilot of some 19 years experience, should not even have been in the air. His license had lapsed, he had no current medical and his aircraft’s maintenance records were incomplete.

Incident #3: Improper descent below published minimum descent altitude during an approach

In the third incident, a Rhode Island based pilot and his passenger were killed after hitting trees on a practice instrument approach at night. According to the NTSB, the accident was caused by:

The pilot’s improper descent below the published minimum descent altitude during the approach, which resulted in controlled flight into terrain.

The original post in the All-Things-Aviation blog contains more details about the three unfortunate incidents plus links to media reports about them. They are well worth reading as a reminder of the need for common sense while flying.


One Response to Three stupid mistakes that killed pilots

  1. Vincent, from Plasti December 26, 2009 at 10:52 #

    The first one is a perfect example of the difference between what's legal and what's sensible… My personal way to avoid such problems (and it worked… so far) is to have personal minimums, depending on my experience in type, recency, and so on.

    Regarding the second one, I'm much too Swiss in my way of thinking to fly an aircraft with less than all required legal conditions met. During my theory classes for IFR, we discussed the SAFA inspections (Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft). The teacher told us something really true: the only time you'll get inspected is when you miss a paper, or when the quantity of fuel left in your tanks after landing is one gallon between the required minimum.

    Altitude on the glide-slope and close to the minimums is part of my golden rules. A good instructor told me once a very wise, and compact thing: there's no reason to be below glide-slope. It's as simple as that. It's part of my golden rules:

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