Wednesday, 11 January 2017


Editor’s note:
To start 2017 we quote below a selection of observations and comments from renowned aviators well-qualified to offer them, for you to think on

The quality of the box matters little. Success depends upon the man who sits in it.
— Baron Manfred von Richthofen

One can get a proper insight into the practice of flying only by actual flying experiments….. the manner in which we have to meet the irregularities of the wind, when soaring in the air, can only be learnt by being in the air itself….. the only way which leads us to a quick development in human flight is a systematic and energetic practice in actual flying experiments.
— Otto Lilienthal, 1896.

There are two ways of learning to ride a fractious horse: one is to get on him and learn by actual practice how each motion and trick may be best met; the other is to sit on a fence and watch the beast a while and then retire to the house and at leisure figure out the best way of overcoming his jumps and kicks. The latter system is the safer, but the former, on the whole, turns out the larger proportion of good riders. It is very much the same thing in learning to ride a flying machine.
— Wilbur Wright, 18 September 1901.

I know him well …. he is apparently without fear, and what he sets out to do he generally accomplishes. This recklessness makes him anything but a good aviator, however, for he lacks entirely the element of caution.
— Wilbur Wright, speaking about Bleriot.

It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge and skill.
— Wilbur Wright

In an imperfect world perfection is not instantly available ….  safety for instance cannot be secured by mechanical devices alone. It is primarily a resultant of care and discipline.
— Ivy Lee, 8 December 1913

In the air transport business the human element is everything. That plane in front of the hangar is only as good as the man who flies it, and he is only as good as the people on the ground who work with him.
— W. A. (Pat) Patterson, President United Airlines, 1944.

Accuracy means something to me. It's vital to my sense of values. I've learned not to trust people who are inaccurate. Every aviator knows that if mechanics are inaccurate, aircraft crash. If pilots are inaccurate, they get lost — sometimes killed. In my profession life itself depends on accuracy.
— Charles A. Lindbergh, 1953.

Every flying machine has its own unique characteristics, some good, some not so good. Pilots naturally fly the craft in such a manner as to take advantage of the good, and avoid the areas where it is not so good.
— Neil Armstrong, June 2009.

The machine does not isolate man from the great problems of nature but plunges him more deeply into them.
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1939.

Do not let yourself be forced into doing anything before you are ready.
— Wilbur Wright

It is hard enough for anyone to map out a course of action and stick to it, particularly in the face of the desires of one's friends; but it is doubly hard for an aviator to stay on the ground waiting for just the right moment to go into the air.
— Glenn Curtiss, 1909.

Hours and hours passed ….. nothing to do but keep the compass on its course and the plane on a level keel …. its very simplicity becomes a danger when your head keeps nodding with weariness and boredom and your eyes everlastingly try to shut out the confusing rows of figures in front of you …. tired of trying to sort them out, you relax for a second ….  your head drops and you sit up with a jerk, Where are you? What are you doing here? Oh yes, you are somewhere in the middle of the North Atlantic, with hungry waves below you like vultures impatiently waiting for the end.
— Amy Johnson

….  It was fear that made me learn everything I could about my airplane and my emergency equipment, and kept me flying respectful of my machine and always alert in the cockpit.
— General Chuck Yeager

I've learned that it is what I do not know that I fear, and I strive, outwardly from pride, inwardly from the knowledge that the unknown is what will finally kill me, to know all there is to be known about my airplane.
— Richard Bach, 1963.

You've got to expect things are going to go wrong. And we always need to prepare ourselves for handling the unexpected.
— Neil Armstrong, 2005.

The best safety device is the pilot who, deep down and regardless of the aircraft, retains a sense of fallibility and vulnerability. No system can ever substitute for that.
— Arnold Reiner, former director of flight safety at Pan Am, 16 December 2009.

Mistakes are inevitable in aviation, especially when one is still learning new things. The trick is to not make the mistake that will kill you.
— Stephen Coonts

Experience is that marvellous thing that enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.
— Franklin P. Jones

When you're in an airplane, despite what might be happening in your personal life or things with your job, or things on the ground, you really have to focus on what you're doing right now.
— Scott Kelly, former Navy test pilot.

What is it in fact, this learning to fly? To be precise, it is 'to learn NOT to fly wrong. To learn to become a pilot is to learn not to let oneself fly too slowly. Not to let oneself turn without accelerating. Not to cross the controls. Not to do this, and not to do that .…  
— Henri Mignoet, 1934.

Get rid at the outset of the idea that the airplane is only an air-going sort of automobile. It isn't. It may sound like one and smell like one, and it may have been interior decorated to look like one; but the difference is — it goes on wings.
— Wolfgang Langewiesche, 1944.

Any young boy can nowadays explain human flight  mechanistically: " … and to climb you shove the throttle all the way forward and pull back just a little on the stick… . " One might as well explain music by saying that the further over to the right you hit the piano the higher it will sound. The makings of a flight are not in the levers, wheels, and pedals but in the nervous system of the pilot: physical sensations, bits of textbook, deep-rooted instincts, burnt-child memories of trouble aloft, hangar talk.
— Wolfgang Langewiesche

Nine-tenths confidence and one-tenth common sense equals a successful aviator.
— John B. Moisant, 1917.

I think there is something exhilarating in flying amongst clouds, and always get a feeling of wanting to pit my aeroplane against them, charge at them, climb over them to show them you have them beat, circle round them, and generally play with them; but clouds can on occasion hold their own against the aviator, and many a pilot has found himself emerging from a cloud not on a level keel. Cloud-flying requires practice, even if you have every modern instrument, and unless you keep calm and collected you will get into trouble after you have been inside a really thick one for a few minutes. In the very early days of aviation, 1912 to be correct, I emerged from a cloud upside down, much to my discomfort, as I didn't know how to get right way up again. I found out somehow, or I wouldn't be writing this.
— Charles Rumney Samson, 1931.

The only time an aircraft has too much fuel on board is when it is on fire.
— Anon

Keep thy airspeed up, less the earth come from below and smite thee.
— William Kershner

Don't ever let an airplane take you someplace where your brain hasn't arrived at least a couple of minutes earlier.
— Anon.

They will pressure you into doing things that may be unsafe, so use your good judgment and remember, 'I would rather be laughed at, than cried for.'
— George MacDonald

When a prang seems inevitable, endeavour to strike the softest, cheapest object in the vicinity, as slowly and gently as possible.
— advice given to RAF pilots during WWII

The thing is, helicopters are different from planes. An airplane by its nature wants to fly, and if not interfered with too strongly by unusual events or by a deliberately incompetent pilot, it will fly. A helicopter does not want to fly. It is maintained in the air by a variety of forces and controls working in opposition to each other, and if there is any disturbance in this delicate balance the helicopter stops flying; immediately and disastrously. There is no such thing as a gliding helicopter. This is why being a helicopter pilot is so different from being an airplane pilot, and why in generality, airplane pilots are open, clear-eyed, buoyant extroverts and helicopter pilots are brooding introspective anticipators of trouble. They know if something bad has not happened it is about to.
— Harry Reasoner, 1971.

Don't believe other people, prove it for yourself. Stick to what you have proved believable. Don't be overawed by other more senior people. Don't ignore the feelings in your bones.
— David P. Davies, former Chief Test Pilot CAA

I don't think I possess any skill that anyone else doesn't have. I've just had perhaps more of an opportunity, more of an exposure, and been fortunate to survive a lot of situations that many other weren't so lucky to make it. It's not how close can you get to the ground, but how precise can you fly the airplane. If you feel so careless with your life that you want to be the world's lowest flying aviator you might do it for a while. But there are a great many former friends of mine who are no longer with us simply because they cut their margins to close.
— R. A. 'Bob' Hoover

If you're faced with a forced landing, fly the thing as far into the crash as possible.
— R. A. 'Bob' Hoover

I sometimes still go out hunting for bad weather, flying low in simple airplanes to explore the inner reaches of the clouds. Less experienced pilots occasionally join me, not to learn formal lessons about weather flying, but with a more advanced purpose in mind — to accompany me in the slow accumulation of experience through circumstances that never repeat in a place that defies mastery.
— William Langeweische

Better to hit the far fence at ten knots than the close fence at VRef.
— Rick Davies, Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia

If you want to grow old as a pilot, you’ve got to know when to push it, and when to back off.
— Chuck Yeager.

I just made a balls of it, old boy. That's all there was to it.
— Douglas Bader, about the take-off crash that led to the loss of both legs.

Harmony comes gradually to a pilot and his plane. The wing does not want so much to fly true as to tug at the hands that guide it; the ship would rather hunt the wind than lay her nose to the horizon far ahead. She has a derelict quality in her character; she toys with freedom and hints at liberation, but yields her own desires gently.
— Beryl Markham, 1942.

Don't be a show-off. Never be too proud to turn back. There are old pilots and bold pilots, but no old, bold pilots.
— E. Hamilton Lee, 1949

Navigating by the compass in a sea of clouds over Spain is all very well; it is very dashing, but you want to remember that below the sea of clouds lies eternity.
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1939


Saturday, 31 December 2016


The hits recorded on the Aerobility Safety Blog now number close to 4500, and our analysis reveals that a significant number of these have originated from outside the UK, covering a large area of the world, from the Americas through Europe to Russia and the Far East.

This is most encouraging, but indicates that some explanation may be needed for those of you who are unfamiliar with what Aerobility is all about, and so a brief resume follows below.

Aerobility is a UK-based Charitable Trust whose objective is to provide opportunities for life-enrichment to those who live with disability of whatever kind and however caused, so that they can enjoy aviation-related experiences which they perhaps believed were beyond attainment, or which they had not even considered possible. Flight operations are centred at Blackbushe airport (EGLK) to the South-West of London, with other UK areas covered as and when needed.

The organisation is managed on a daily basis by people who from personal circumstance are fully conversant with both disability and flying, supported by a small permanent Administrative Staff, Certificated Flying Instructors, and a team of Volunteers. Our work is largely funded by personal donation and Corporate sponsorship, and we are proud to provide services both to individuals and on behalf of several major UK fund-raising Charities dedicated to helping disabled children or adults, and injured ex-military personnel.

Our range of activities includes amongst other things:
  • ·       One-off ground-based group sessions to introduce aviation to children with physical disabilities or learning difficulties, either self-funded or sponsored by major Organisations which share our ideals and support us in delivering them
  • ·        Multi-session group education programmes for young-person or adult groups, which include ground-school topics and flying experiences both actual and simulated
  • ·        One-off first-flight experiences for individuals from all age-groups using our fleet of training aircraft, available with flight control modifications and full hoisting facilities where needed by those without full use of their lower limbs
  • ·       Full flight training to PPL level for adults with disability. Much of this training is  funded by bursary or scholarship awarded by our Sponsor-Partners

The work involved is highly satisfying and rewarding for us, as we see every day great improvement in self-confidence, social and communication skills and potential exhibited by our service-users.

The above is only meant as a brief outline, and any of you who would like to learn more about us can do so by visiting our main site at

This Safety Blog is simply an add-on intended as a supplementary pool of knowledge and experience derived from various sources, principally for those learning to fly, but also serving as an aide-memoire for those who might require the occasional memory-nudge! So please keep logging on every so often, and trawl back through the various articles, which could one day prove useful to you.


Wednesday, 14 December 2016


Acknowledgements: GASCO Flight Safety/CFI Adele Stephenson

Unlike in commercial aviation, where such things are generally prepared for the pilot by others, the private pilot needs to spend a considerable amount of effort and thought in order to determine a safety altitude for each flight.

The chances are, if the pilot wants to short-cut the process he or she will nominate a height which is too high (“Oh well, two thousand feet will do!”).

So when the unexpected weather appears ahead, what about that 2000 feet? It gives a good margin above high ground and obstructions, so why not slip below it for a bit to see how far ahead this weather extends?

This is the danger point, since once the decision is taken to descend below your nominated safety altitude there are no further limits; only collision with high ground or obstructions. So once you have descended to your nominated safety altitude that is exactly what it is. Either maintain it, or initiate your Plan B. (Ed. Note: You do have one, right?). Return or divert, without any messing about or “ducking below”!

So, your planned safety altitude has to be:
·         realistic, so that it removes all temptation to ignore it
·         set below your cruising altitude (this may seem too obvious to mention, but the advice “if you are lost, climb to your safety altitude … “ is known to have been uttered by at least one instructor! But why would you be flying below it in the first place, even in clear conditions?

There are so many things to consider in advance throughout your planned route, both to destination and selected diversion point, including:
·         the Law
·         low flying restrictions, for noise abatement or any other requirement
·         specified minimum altitudes over built-up areas
·         clearance above charted obstructions
·         high ground
·         topological up-draughts & down-draughts, which have adversely affected many a light aircraft
·         is your flight routed upwind of or on the lee side of high ground?
·         do you need to work to different safety altitudes for different sectors of your flight?
·         how far on either side of your planned track do you need your safety altitude to cover in order to account for divergence?

The time spent in pre-flight consideration of the ground conditions over which and close to which you will be flying will be well-spent in the event of need, so please give your safety altitude the respect it deserves, and once off the ground discipline yourself to honour it - it may even save your life!


Monday, 5 December 2016


Acknowledgements: AOPA & David J. Kenny
Fans of the British comedy troupe Monty Python share a particular fondness for the character of Ron Obvious, the first man ever to try to jump the English Channel. 
“How far is it across the Channel?” asks an interviewer (John Cleese).
“Oh, about 21 miles from Dover to Calais,” replies Mr. Obvious (Terry Jones).
“And what’s the farthest you’ve managed to jump in practice?”
“A little over six feet.”
Sure enough, the record jump attempt proves … anticlimactic!

The sketch provided a particularly sly reminder that willpower and optimism come out second best when they take on the laws of physics.

In general aviation, this is proven the hard way year after year by a tiny minority of aviators who feel that an immediate need to complete the flight outweighs the very real risk that they won’t. Making the attempt in the face of known mechanical problems, hazardous weather, or simple inexperience can vastly increase the cost of not reaching that destination.

Consider the following accident report and decide what you would/would not have done ……

The Cessna stopped for fuel at Columbia, Missouri on the way from Jackson, Tennessee to Sioux City, Iowa. It took on 26 gallons. While on the ground, its pilot called to get a weather briefing for the final leg. The briefer advised that Sioux City was IFR and expected to remain so. Low clouds covered much of the route, including northern Missouri and western Iowa, with tops reported between 2,500 and 4,500 feet. Weather in eastern Nebraska was “beautiful,” but instrument conditions also were expected to develop there around his ETA; temperature/dew point spreads were already narrow and decreasing. The pilot responded that his job and vehicle were in Sioux City, so the briefer identified Wayne, Nebraska, 28 nautical miles west-southwest, as the nearest airport reporting clear conditions.

They discussed the option of flying VFR over the cloud deck, but because the pilot was not instrument rated, the briefer suggested flying northwest to Kansas City, then turning north on the west side of the Missouri River. He also recommending stopping at Omaha to reassess the situation. The pilot replied that he’d decided to fly direct to Sioux City above the clouds, diverting to Wayne if conditions required. The briefer advised him to get weather updates en-route and provided him with a list of the appropriate frequencies.

The Cessna took off at 3:40 p.m., an hour and a half before sunset. The moon had gone down in mid-afternoon. The pilot requested and received flight following. Around 6:30 he reported clear skies and good visibility above the clouds to the Sioux City approach controller. The controller asked him to “let me know when you get ground contact” and advised that Sioux City was under a 700-foot overcast. Wayne and Norfolk, Nebraska, still reported clear skies. The pilot responded that he was beginning his descent without ground contact, adding “I’m sure I’m getting fairly close,” and said he planned to land on Runway 36 at Wayne.

Descending through 2,000 feet, less than 600 feet above ground level, he still could not see the ground. The controller provided an updated observation from 10 minutes earlier that included a 200-foot scattered layer at Wayne. The pilot continued to descend, reporting negative ground contact at 1,800 feet. Acknowledgement of the loss of radar contact was the last transmission received from him.

The wreckage was found in a small area at the end of a short debris path, suggesting a steep angle of impact. The next METAR from Wayne, six minutes after the accident, listed the ceiling as overcast at 200 feet. Norfolk, another 25nm southwest, stayed clear with good visibility for two more hours.

If he’d recognized his peril, made a second diversion and landed safely at Norfolk, he might have learned a vital lesson in risk assessment. A VFR pilot flying over a low overcast has nowhere to go in the event of engine trouble, illness, or anything else unexpected. It only gets worse at night. If he’d chosen a route that got him as close to home as possible while avoiding the clouds, whatever it is he needed to do still might not have got done the next day, but at least he’d have had a chance to do it the day after.


Tuesday, 29 November 2016


For those who haven’t had the opportunity to read the whole thing, here’s a summary:

      Stay out of icing conditions for which the aircraft has NOT been cleared.

    Note freezing level in the aviation weather forecast. Don’t go unless the aircraft is equipped for the conditions.

    Have warm clothing available for pre-flight and in case of heater failure or forced landing.

    Mud, snow and slush will lengthen take-off and landing runs. Work out your distances in advance.

     Remove all frost, ice and snow from the aircraft – there is no such thing as a little ice!

      Check carefully that all essential electrical services, especially pitot heat, are working properly.

    Check that the heater and demister are effective. Watch out for any signs of carbon monoxide poisoning.

        Be extra vigilant for carb ice.

      If ice does start to form, act promptly, get out of the conditions by descending (beware of high ground), climbing or diverting.

       If you encounter ice, tell ATC so that others can be warned.

      During the approach if you suspect tail-plane ice, or suffer a severe pitch down, RETRACT THE FLAPS.

   If you have to land with an iced-up aeroplane, add at least 20% to the approach speed.

      Snow-covered, icy or muddy runways will make crosswinds harder to handle.



Airspace infringements continue to be one of the UK’s main aviation safety risks. The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), through its Airspace Infringements Working Group, is currently working with industry to tackle the issue. The Group has issued a list of top ten tips to avoid an infringement:

1. Navigation is a skill which needs to be practised regularly, both in planning a flight and conducting it. Safety Sense Leaflet 5 (available on the CAA website and in the LASORS publication) contains good advice on VFR navigation, but it only works if you read and apply it!

2. If you plan a route through controlled airspace, remember that a crossing clearance may not always be possible and consider that route as your ‘secondary’ plan. Your primary plan should avoid controlled airspace - and don’t forget to make your overall time and fuel calculations using the longer, primary route!

3. Where possible, avoid planning to fly close to controlled airspace boundaries. If you do need to do so, be very careful. A small navigational error or distraction of any sort can lead to an infringement – and it doesn’t take much to ruin your day!

4. Pilot workloads rise rapidly in less than ideal weather - and so do infringements. If the weather starts to deteriorate, consider your options early and if necessary divert or turn back in good time.

5. If you wish to transit controlled airspace, think about what you need to ask for in advance and call the appropriate Air Traffic Control (ATC) unit at least 10 nautical miles or five minutes flying time from the airspace boundary. This gives the controller time to plan ahead.

6. Thinking before you press the transmit switch and using the correct radio phraseology helps air traffic control to help you - and sounds more professional!

7. Be aware that ATC may be busy when you call them – just because the frequency doesn’t sound busy doesn’t mean that the controller isn’t busy on another frequency or on landlines.

8. Remember - the instruction ‘Standby’ means just that; it is not an ATC clearance and not even a precursor to a clearance. The controller is probably busy, so continue to plan to fly around the airspace. Only fly across the airspace if the controller issues a crossing clearance.

9. Your planned route through controlled airspace may appear simple on your chart but the traffic patterns within that airspace may make it unrealistic in practice. Be prepared for a crossing clearance which does not exactly match your planned route but which will allow you to transit safely.

10. Don’t be afraid to call ATC and use the transponder when lost or uncertain of your position - overcoming your embarrassment may prevent an infringement which may in turn prevent an Airprox (or worse).