Two Easy Ways to Prevent Pilot Error

The following post is a guest post by Jason Schappert of Visit Jason’s blog for flight training videos and informative articles.

What causes airplanes to overshoot runways, clip wingtips, and miss airports entirely? Two words: Pilot Error. The media is very unforgiving when it comes to televising aircraft mishaps, and the effects of the big airliners trickle down into the general aviation community. How can we learn from these mistakes?

Flying Within Your Limits

Aviation experts deem the main reason American Airlines Flight 331 overshot the runway was because of pilot error. More specifically the pilot flying outside of his and the aircraft’s limits by landing with a 14 knot tailwind.

Anyone who has tried to land even a Cessna 150 in the slightest tailwind knows it’s a difficult process.

How can we correct this? Know your limits and the limits of your aircraft. Today read through your aircraft’s POH and locate things like it’s maximum crosswind component or max gross weight and compare these to your personal limits. Just because your aircraft is equipped to handle a 17 knot crosswind doesn’t mean you personally could go handle it.

Stop Going Through The Motions

Jason Schappert of

Jason Schappert was named AOPA's Top Colligiate Flight Instructor in 2008 and is the editor of

This is something as pilots it’s hard to avoid. For a while I was flying to Key West pretty regularly. I flew the same airplane on the same airways and talked with the same controllers. Seems pretty easy to get complacent. I find a lot of my veteran pilots get this way on their preflight. Being the practical joke instructor I am, I occasionally will put a piece of tape on the static port that says “I’m clogged!” 100% of all my students that have their private pilot certificate have missed it. 100% of my students who were training for their private pilot certificate found it! Now what does that say? Once we get our certificate we stop paying attention to details? There is a reason my slogan at is “A Good Pilot is Always Learning”

These are two quick and easy ways to make each time you enter the airport a safer experience for you and everyone else in the air. Find your limits and stay within them. Avoid becoming complacent by constantly learning. Just because you have your certificate doesn’t mean it’s the end all. It’s a license to learn and any good instructor will tell you that.

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About the author
Jason Schappert is a full time flight instructor and aviation blogger. Schappert was named Top Collegiate Flight Instructor of the Year in 2008 and contributes to AOPA’s Let’s Go Flying project. You can read more of Jason’s writing and video podcasts by visiting his blog:

One Reply to Two Easy Ways to Prevent Pilot Error

  1. I wonder if it helps to change the language of checklists to turn each item into a question or a challenge rather than just a reminder. If you constantly say “undercarriage down and locked” rather than “is the undercarriage down and locked?” you might end up taking the answer for granted. Just a thought?

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