Light-sport aviation safety is a very interesting topic. Let’s first look at aircraft safety, safety in general and then at pilot safety.
Most modern LSA are built to strict airworthiness standards. If maintained and preflighted properly as every pilot is trained, there is very little chance of a mechanical malfunction. In fact, very few accidents occur because of mechanical failure.
Important safety note on aircraft– It must be noted that some (not all) home built, experimental and/or ultralights are not as airworthy and should be looked at by qualified personnel before flying. In fact, some of these home built, experimental and/or old ultralights should not be flown because they are dangerous. Luckily, since the FAA implemented the new rules in 2004, new airworthiness standards have been incorporated to fix this problem. Not to say that all of these aircraft are dangerous, just be cautious with home built, experimental and/or ultralights. If it looks dilapidated or the general condition appears bad, do not fly in it, use your common sense, talk with others.
Most LSA are safer than regular airplanes because there is a ballistic parachute system installed. This greatly increases the safety above and beyond regular airplanes. If there is a serious mechanical failure, mid air collision, weather related situation, or the pilot simply becomes incapacitated, the emergency parachute can be deployed and the aircraft and occupants float safely down to earth.
Other reasons sport pilots flying LSA are safer than regular airplanes is because most are flying for fun rather than under pressure to “get somewhere”. Sport pilots simply say “i am not going to fly today because of …(some good reason)…”. This is a safety attitude which is acceptable and admired by pilots and passengers. This is a new safety age for flying.
Safety in general
Lets look at risk management and safety in general. Lets start with some things we must do every day (driving) or things we do for pleasure:
- Is driving safe?
- Is riding a bicycle safe?
- Is skiing safe?
- Is riding a horse safe?
- Is boating safe?
- Is riding a motorcycle safe?
As you can see from the list, there is some risk with many things we choose to do.
Based on the number of people who are hurt or die every year at the above activities, it would be “safe” to say that none of the above is safe, but we do them anyway and accept the risk. Why are they unsafe and people get hurt? — mainly because the the driver/operator decision and/or other uncontrolled events such as other people causing the accident in one form or another. Luckily, for aviation, there is much less chance of others causing an accident with all the room in the sky. You have more control of your flying safety. The situation is also true for Sport Pilots flying LSA.
Most accidents are from “pilot error”. Why?
Pilots often put themselve into situations where they make bad decisions, most can be avoided with two basics:
- Training. Both initial training for your pilot certificate plus learning more after you get your license and flying as “Pilot in Control”
- Positive attitude about flying.
You have the ability to keep learning through seminars, on line courses and staying up to date with the industry. Getting the magazines and reading on line information. There is plenty out there.
As far as a positive attitude, the FAA has put out some hazardous attitudes and antidotes to fix most situations when hazardous attitudes arise. Many are guilty of these hazardous attitudes in our everyday life. As you go down you will see yourself and your friends. These were developed through accident reports so this is a most important concept for safety. As corny as they may appear, they are effective if used. Hazardous attitudes and fixes are:
Anti-Authority: “Don’t tell me.”
This attitude is found in people who do not like anyone telling them what to do. In a sense, they are saying, “No one can tell me what to do.” They may be resentful of having someone tell them what to do, or may regard rules, regulations, and procedures as silly or unnecessary. However, it is always your prerogative to question authority if you feel it is in error.
ANTIDOTE – Follow the rules. They are usually right.
Impulsivity: “Do it quickly.”
This is the attitude of people who frequently feel the need to do something, anything, immediately. They do not stop to think about what they are about to do; they do not select the best alternative, and they do the first thing that comes to mind.
ANTIDOTE – Not so fast. Think first.
Invulnerability: “It won’t happen to me.”
Many people falsely believe that accidents happen to others, but never to them. They know accidents can happen, and they know that anyone can be affected. However, they never really feel or believe that they will be personally involved. Pilots who think this way are more likely to take chances and increase risk.
ANTIDOTE – It could happen to me.
Macho: “I can do it.”
Pilots who are always trying to prove that they are better than anyone else think, “I can do it—I’ll show them.” Pilots with this type of attitude will try to prove themselves by taking risks in order to impress others. While this pattern is thought to be a male characteristic, women are equally susceptible. Sometimes the persons last words are “is the camera running”.
ANTIDOTE – Taking chances is foolish.
Resignation: “What’s the use?”
Pilots who think, “What’s the use?” do not see themselves as being able to make a great deal of difference in what happens to them. When things go well, the pilot is apt to think that it is good luck. When things go badly, the pilot may feel that someone is out to get me, or attribute it to bad luck. The pilot will leave the action to others, for better or worse. Sometimes, such pilots will even go along with unreasonable requests just to be a “nice guy.”
ANTIDOTE – I’m not helpless. I can make a difference.
There was your first and most important lesson with LSA safety
The attitudes and antidotes mentioned were derived from most pilot error accidents and is the basis for realizing there is a problem and fixing it before it becomes a bigger problem. Risk management is taught in the ground schools and during flight training to understand all the aspects of the…
- environment, and
- external pressures.
Overall, modern aircraft is strong and reliable. Accidents can easily be avoided with proper training and a good attitude.