Stupidity Factor


By Richard Zephro

4 Deadheading pilots ferrying a Canadair regional jet lose control frolicking and playing at 40,000 feet. All Dead.

An M20A wood wing Mooney gets a 2×4 strapped to a rotting wing spar for “easy fix”. 4 Dead, 2 in jail.

Low altitude aerobatics, coming out the bottom of a split S maneuver, hits ground. 1 Dead.

Regional airliner choose the wrong runway (too short for take off) ALL Dead.

Young fueler refuels recip. Bonanza with Jet A. 2 Dead.

Buzzing! A gazillion accidents, most fatal.

FUI (flying under the influence).

Pilot takes Alka Seltzer tablet for headache with NO WATER and just shoves it in his mouth! Choked. 1 Dead.

VFR Pilots fly in to IMC purposely. Gazillion Dead.

IFR pilot flies his plane in to known (small Cell) to wash his plane off. 1 Dead.

Small plane pilot flies his bird in to LAX TCA with no authority, takes tail off airliner in flight. Many Dead.

Chopper pilot decides to tow a small boat to the shore….Didn’t work. Scratch 1 Bell Jet Ranger.

Pilot flies his Mooney in to an airport with a short runway to get his non working brakes worked on. Result: Mooney bulldozer.

Citation lands long downwind on very short runway. All on board survive but had to be rescued by boats!

Rock ‘n Roll stars who fly in planes…. ;o)


“Dumb accident number one is low-level maneuvering flight. Last year there were 135 mishaps that resulted in hitting wires, towers, buildings, or the ground. They typically involved a low-time pilot out for a spin, literally in some cases, and there were fatalities in almost 50 percent of the cases.” AOPA

Have you ever completed a flight whereby you pronounced something you did as “Stupid”? I will be the first to volunteer one of mine: About 3 years ago I pulled a plane out of the maintenance hanger. A car had to be moved so I could taxi out to the runway. I did the pre-flight in the hanger and after a subsequent conversation with the mechanic, I got in the plane, taxied it out toward the runway when all of a sudden the mechanic drove up to the plane frantically waving his arms and making a cut throat sign for me to kill the engine. I did not question it and shut her down immediately. The tow bar was still in the nose gear! (blush). Sometimes we get away doing stupid stuff while others aren’t so fortunate.

For those of you whom are smarter than I was that day, they will check the plane on a once around inspection just before you board the plane should anything have diverted your attention after the normal pre-flight. Additionally, smart pilots will include themselves as an important pre-flight item to check. If you find yourself rushed to get off the ground, or you have get-home-itis, or for any reason you find that you are not really at 100%; DON’T FLY that day! It’s a NO-GO pure and simple.

How are your decision making habits normally?

Are you fully prepared to make unexpected intelligent and immediate decisions, or do you simply leave (shit-happens) occurrences to fate?

This is where the “WHAT IF” portion of being a good pilot comes in.

For the past 30+ years, I have read everything from FLYING’s “I learned about Flying from that” articles. I even have a book produced from Flying Magazine full of those articles.

I read at least monthly the list of accidents during that month at the site, not to be morbid by any stretch, nor to be disrespectful, but to help insure that none of my hundreds of customers have filled any of those pages with a fatal result (not I could ever find thank God) but importantly, to learn from some of other less fortunate pilots mistakes, and you wouldn’t believe how many occurred that one would consider a “STUPID MISTAKE” where you finish the article shaking your head in disgust. What a waste often, and all because of improper decision making and usually due to a pilot not ever considering in advance what he would do in any particular scenario, or at least the one that did he or his plane in.

I know of several pilots over the years who have landed with their airplane’s gear up and each time all of them got out of the plane and said or thought the same three words: DUMB, DUMB, DUMB! Look if we all admit to ourselves that we are as humans capable of occasional “DUMBNESS”, then we are on our way to a good start for not becoming one of those statistics that would fall in to the “DUMB” category.

UPDATE: As of October 2007, there have been a ten year total of stall/spin accidents (mostly in the pattern) which almost always takes place in the pattern and more often than not in the base to final phase of flight. The ten year total of all Gen Av stall/spins is 404. That is about 40 of these needless fatalities per year. Of the ten year total, only 14 of them involved Mooney aircraft, so every year there are 1.4 stall/spin accidents in Mooneys. Relatively low comparatively, but 100% more than there has to be if the patterns are simply flown correctly and not in a tight formation to the runway, but low banking leisurely turns.

THE VAST OPERATION of aviation activities carry a very low risk, while a few or them are dangerous beyond belief. Avoid the dangerous few and indulge passionately in the safe airship operation and you can expect to live long enough to see your great grandchildren graduate from Harvard. Here are eleven things that you can do that will make your flying 10 times safer than average.

1. Check yourself as the pilot.

2. Never never never say, “I have to get there.”

3. Do your aerobatics from the ground

4. Don’t buzz things

5. Don’t fly dangerous airplanes

6. Don’t confuse being FAA Legal with being safe.

7. Take time to learn from the pilot who killed himself doing something stupid.

8. Don’t fly with meds, alcohol, or illegal drugs in your system.

9. Do thorough pre-flights.

10. Don’t fly beyond your personal limitations.

11. THINK!

Here are a couple more facts we should consider:

Nearly half of IFR approach accidents occur at night while 70% of IFR accidents occur during daylight.

The hourly rate of IFR accidents is lower than the VFR rate but the fatality rate is three times higher.

By eliminating the “dumb” in accidents, the fatal accident rate could be cut by one third. This is great news to the average conscientious pilot and his passengers. Avoiding these easily defined problems is something all of us could do; and if we did, many problems facing general aviation would subside. Public perception of our activity would improve significantly.