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
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 MzeroA.com 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.