SW Aviator Magazine - August/September 1999 issue
Anatomy of a Lazy Summer Night
Aircraft Accident
by Professor A.K. Cydent
The warm weather of these summer months reminded me of something that happened a few years back.

At the end of a fishing trip with his buddies, a VFR-only pilot sitting in a bar saw on TV that a thunderstorm was approaching. He decided to try beating it home with a full compliment (overweight) of passengers in a 6 place single engine aircraft. The gas tanks were topped off, and the aircraft, filled with fishing supplies, was over gross weight.

The pilot raced to airport, "kicked the tires and lit the fire," and was happily on his way home—not having checked the maintenance logs, performed a good preflight, or checked the weather along his flight route or the forecast at his destination. The pilot had bragged of frequently exceeding Vne in his aircraft.

In the air, the craft took one too many abrupt jolts—or suffered severe to extreme turbulence associated with thunderstorms—and one of the wings separated.

All on board were killed on impact.

Think it can't happen to you?

It happens across the entire spectrum of pilots: from the student to the pilot who flies the big jets. What I'm talking about here is the affliction commonly known as “get home-itis,” or in this case, “gotta get my buddies there.” Though every pilot is potential prey to these syndromes, it is generally small and non-commercial aircraft operators who are most prone.

What is a life worth? Certainly enough to wait the hour or two it may take for some evening showers to pass. Definitely enough to put eight hours between bottle and throttle.

Think about it. I know I was guilty of these syndromes myself at least once—and it scared the you know what out of me!

Remember the old saying: "There are old pilots; there are bold pilots; but there are no old, bold pilots." It wouldn’t have become a cliche if there wasn’t some truth to it. I know many, many more “old” pilots (of all ages) than I do bold pilots of any age.

Enjoy your summer flying!

“Professor A.K. Cydent” is an ex-FAA Investigator and Army Rotorcraft Instructor who may have more answers to accident-related questions than we thought possible.

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The material in this publication is for advisory information only and should not be relied upon for navigation, maintenance or flight techniques. SW Regional Publications and the staff neither assume any responsibilty for the accuracy of this publication's content nor any liability arising out of it. Fly safe.