Have you read the NAAA’s June 28 “Fly Safe Campaign” newsletter, “Fly Safe or Die?” If you haven’t, you should. Eight fatalities, all for the most part avoidable, is extreme. It appears that there are two primary causes, wire strikes and stall/spins. Oftentimes, wires will sneak up on a pilot. The same cannot be said about stall-spin accidents; they are self induced. Most stall-spin accidents occur in the turn and could be completely avoided. An exception could be overloaded in turbulent air. But, even that scenario can be avoided. So, what’s the pilot’s excuse for having a stall-spin accident? He can’t answer because in almost every case, a stall-spin accident is fatal.
The last paragraph of NAAA’s “Fly Safe Campaign” newsletter really drives the message home. The lead-in sentence begins by stating, “If you insist on flying unsafe, please make sure you have your affairs in order.” Other interesting sentences are: “Be sure your life insurance is paid up… Kiss your family goodbye in the morning… Be sure your customers have your competition’s contact info…” You get the gist of where the article is going with its browbeating. For those pilots that need browbeating, at least you are still alive to take action and start flying as a professional and not a “redneck cowboy” that is out to prove what, exactly?
There’s a fine line between making a quick, efficient turn at the end of a spray run and making a turn on the edge of a self-induced accelerated stall. The time a pilot thinks he saves by doing so is arguably non-existent at the end of the day. I know. I’m speaking from firsthand experience. There was a time I thought I was completely bulletproof. If I flew a field in sight of my competition, the more radical the turn. I was one of the lucky ones. I “grew up” before I killed myself, thanks to some prodding from fellow ag pilots.
Wire strikes are a completely different matter. It could be said that they are avoidable. In some cases, maybe so, but not always. In the course of ag flying, it is often necessary to challenge the safety of going under or over a wire. I’m not implying that we should take unnecessary risks, but we have to admit that flying around wires is risky. Like all risks, they can be mitigated by only taking the least risk. That’s the case with flying around wires. If you believe it could be too tight, or too difficult to go over, then it probably is, don’t do it. Wire flying is a judgement decision. We all make mistakes (misjudge). At least a mistake in regard to flying around wires takes some of the onus off the pilot, but not all.
There is no such thing as a risk-and-mistake-free flying environment. The least we can do is stack the deck in our favor, otherwise, “make sure your affairs are in order…”
Until next month, Keep Turning… (safely)