– Steve Hitchen
Most of the GA industry were shocked three years ago when three very skilled pilots died in the crash of a Conquest at Renmark. Almost immediately, people began to talk about practising engine failure after take-off (EFATO) in twins and the recognised dangers. Too many times in Australia have practise emergencies turned real with the attendant consequences. This week the ATSB confirmed that the crash was indeed an issue of not maintaining a safe airspeed during an EFATO exercise. The scary thing is that if pilots of this calibre can get it wrong, what chance the average twin driver? CASA recognised the dangers back in 2010 after a hauntingly similar crash out of Darwin involving a Brasilia and opened up the possibility of doing twin-engine EFATO in a simulator, if one is available. Sadly, the ATSB notes that there is no Conquest sim in Australia, so it had to be done for real. Sadder, perhaps, is that this won't be the last time. Most twin-engined aircraft in Australia don't have suitable simulators, condemning pilots to continue with real practise EFATO, an exercise that has been shown to introduce danger to a flight. There's still so much more work that needs doing in this area, and I believe it should be high on CASA's list.
Statistics tell stories, but the story told is often dependent on who's doing the reading. This week the ATSB released their 10-year occurrence analysis, concluding that fatalities in GA decreased over the course of the decade. However, stats extracted from their very own database show that accident numbers have been trending steadily upwards. More accidents, but fewer deaths. Does that mean GA is getting safer or not? That depends on the reader's definition of safety. When I do stats analysis on accidents, I take no notice of the injury levels. An injury is the consequence of the accident and not the cause of the accident. Eliminate the causes and the injuries are eliminated by default; no-one has ever been hurt by an accident that didn't happen. Fatalities, however, can give some guide as to the severity of the accident once it has occurred. By counting only accidents, we put a simple folded nosewheel on landing into the same stat column as the Renmark incident above. Are they comparable? Not likely. Conversely, counting fatalities can make it all sound so much worse. Ten accidents resulting in one fatality gives a one-to-10 ratio. Three accidents of which one was a triple fatality gives you a one-to-one ratio, a worse figure despite the number of accidents going down. That's one of the reasons why the ATSB hammers us with stats from every angle: numbers alone tell only part of the story. By the time you've read through the ATSB report, you'll probably come up with a story all of your own as well. That's the nature of statistics.
If you've been monitoring our Facebook page, you'll note that we've been posting links to a podcast series called Grounded. Produced by Angela Stevenson (aka Angela at Avalon), the series interviews several GA people to find out how the COVID-19 restrictions have impacted their businesses and operations. Real aviation people telling real aviation stories. The society we are trying to operate in at the moment has very different norms from those that general aviation grew out of and at the moment it's very clear that the industry and the community is under serious siege. Mostly what we have to go on now is anecdotal, so we've devised a very short sampling survey to try to quantify the impact of the COVID-19 restrictions. If you get the chance, go in and complete this simple 10-question survey to give us all an idea of the new norm we are trying to work with. The survey is limited to 100 responses and will close as soon as the limit is reached. Also, if you'd like to tell us your story as it has evolved, you can always e-mail me at email@example.com and give me your thoughts directly.
In much better news, the May-June print issue of Australian Flying is on the loose! This is the last of the pre-COVID issues when writers could get out and about flying things, photographing things and talking to people face-to-face. It was built in a happier time for GA. Covered with a great shot of a couple of Twotters in the air, this issue contains a flight test on Tecnam's beefed-up P Twenty-ten, an examination of the influence of LSAs on GA, a fantastic interview with the great Burt Rutan and we look back on 10 years of Class D metro GA airports and ask if it was all worth it. There's a heap more that you can peruse here, but these are just samples of what's in store when you get your hands on the whole mag.
May your gauges always be in the green,