01 - Let's Go Flying

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Hello Everyone,

I regret to say our club has a really bad recent safety record.

I have come to hear of no fewer than ten accidents to our members and local homebuilt aircraft in the last half-dozen months alone, and there were probably more. Most of these can be attributed to poor piloting skills, lack of practice, inadequate maintenance or risk-taking. One was beyond control of the pilot. Because he was in good practice, it had a relatively successful outcome.

Here are a few examples:

  • Flying over water beyond gliding distance from land in a single-engined aeroplane - dead pilot.
  • Lost canopy, forced landing - badly damaged aeroplane.
  • Landing heavy and fast downwind - two burst tyres. Landing in a limiting crosswind - written off aeroplane.
  • Engine failure causing forced landing in a strong crosswind - written off aeroplane.
  • Engine failure - written off aeroplane.
  • Landing in a strong crosswind - collapsed undercarriage, wing damage.
  • Not keeping straight after landing - collapsed undercarriage, wing damage.
  • Unauthorized modification - forced landing, taxiway damage.
  • Flying too low over the sea - sunk aeroplane.
  • Low level in-flight structural failure - minor damage.
  • Serious engine malfunction - no damage or injuries.

At this rate, even with 100 aeroplanes at Serpentine, there will be none at all left within less than five years.

You can play "Guess the culprit" if you like, but that will only be a waste of time. You would be better off asking "Am I likely to do the same thing? Am I in practice? Are my flying skills good enough to cope with the unexpected?"

I am not a particularly good natural pilot, so I work hard at staying in practice. Counting back through my log-book earlier in the year for the statistics form, I found I made 50 landings per year in each of my aeroplanes. If you are more skilled than me, perhaps you can make do with less.

Check back through your log-book. Are you doing enough flying to stay in practice? If not, why not come down to Serpentine and fly some circuits? Sunday's forecast is good. The B o M says: A strong ridge of high pressure is expected to maintain fine conditions until at least Sunday night. Mild day time temperatures are likely on the weekend. Sunday: Fine. Min: 9 Max: 24. and, as Stephan say, Avgas is now cheaper than car fuel.

I look forward to seeing you there. But don't just fly ordinary circuits. Perhaps try a few glide approaches. That will help you when your engine fails. I always fly glide approaches in aeroplanes with Gipsy, four-cylinder Continental or Volkswagen engines. That is what the manufacturers recommend, and they are the types most prone to failure, but it is always good practice to fly every fifth approach as a glide approach in any aircraft. I made at least 100 glide approaches last year (in various different aeroplanes), so I hope to be able to cope when my engine stops. Will you?

Safe flying,

Bob Grimstead
SABC Safety Committee

The SABC Safety Sub Committee exists to encourage safer flying by all SABC members, to encourage safer flying at Serpentine, to formulate guidelines for aerobatics, formation flying and flying demonstrations at Serpentine, to disseminate relevant safety information, including accident reports and engineering advice where appropriate, to provide safety related training, to run skill-enhancing seminars and competitions from time to time, and to organise and undertake group briefings for SABC events.

All advice offered is believed to be the best available at the time, and such advice is offered in good faith, but all such advice is given on the understanding that no member of the SABC Safety Sub Committee assumes any liability or responsibility for the conduct of any member of the SABC, whether or not that member is following the advice of a member of the Safety Sub Committee. Furthermore, SABC members should be aware that flying carries risks, including those of death and serious injury, and SABC members should accept that it is their personal responsibility to fly in such a way as to minimise those risks to themselves, their passengers, and people on the ground.