32 - Steve Irwin

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Hello folks,

Steve Irwin was a fascinating personality, a great wildlife expert and a really nice bloke (I once carried him and his family in my aeroplane). However, his untimely death can teach us all a lesson in risk management.

The fact is that, if you repeatedly take a risk (any risk, large or small), the more frequently you take it, the bigger the chance that risk will eventually get you.

I know this does not seem the case. Tell someone they're taking a chance and the will say airily "Oh, I've done that safely dozens of times". They may have done. This merely means their odds of survival are reducing each time they take that chance.

Spend a lot of time with wild carnivores, ride your BMX bike straight across the freeway, overtake a road train blinded by its dust. You'll get away with it quite a few times, maybe hundreds. But then you won't.

The same is true for pilots. Fly frequently across the desert, and like it or not, eventually you'll have to make a forced landing. You might or might not survive.

Go flying after dark regularly in a single-engined aeroplane and you'll have to do the same thing. The more often you do it, the higher your chance of a forced landing becomes.

Fly over water a lot, eventually you'll drown.

Fly erratic low level aerobatics every week, sooner or later you'll burn to death.

Every single engined pilot of any experience will have to make a forced landing. If you fly Lycomings, on average it happens around once per 1,500 flying hours, for Continentals that's every 1,200 hours. Fly a Volkswagen or any other converted automotive engine and the risk goes up enormously, perhaps once every 400 hours. Two-strokes are even worse. You may have flown safely hundreds of times, but eventually the odds will catch up with you, and the more you've done it, the shorter become the odds.

Let's all remember this, and keep practicing those forced landings.

However long we've been doing it safely, the more often we fly, the more likely we are to have an engine failure. The longer we fly without one, the sooner it will happen.

Good luck to you all, but let's not just rely on luck, let's be prepared when the time comes.


Bob Grimstead
SABC Safety