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Formation aerobatics, such as this recent immaculate display in South Africa by the Mazda "Zoom-Zoom" team are crowd-thrillers, but any performance can turn into disaster through a moment's loss of concentration by any one of the pilots involved.....


Des Barker's annual overview of air show safety throughout the world has already become a "must read" feature for pilots, particularly those involved in the air show circuit in Africa. As he points out, monitoring air show accident statistics is a rather macabre, but necessary, task if data is to be collected for safety analysis and air show management information.

4 World Airnews, March 2007.


T IS very apparent that, from statistics gathered for this, the 2006 overview, there are no new causes of air show accidents and although this may sound harsh, display pilots have continued to repeat the accidents that their forefathers discovered at their peril. The fact is that the low-level display arena remains a hazardous environment in which the fickleness of human judgement in the face of high closing speeds, high positive and negative accelerations and rates, remains the Achilles heel of display pilots. What has become more apparent in the last two years is that there is a new "vibe" in international display flying events and there is no doubt that aerial entertainment is taking huge strides as show organisers and display pilots apply their minds to make aerial entertainment even more appealing to the "adrenalin junkies". Since Aero Grand Prix (GP) was introduced to Europe in 2005, its popularity, along with the Red Bull races worldwide, has added a new dimension. Aero GP is rather unique, being the only air-racing series that features a combination of racing, air-to-air combat and target bombing in which points are awarded across the three disciplines, providing pilots with a true test of flying ability and spectators with a "rush". Unlike the Red Bull Air Race, Aero GP sees all the aircraft in the sky at the same time in the ultimate test of airborne racing, and international sponsors have not been slow in subsidising these highly dynamic, high energy events. In the Red Bull Race held in Barcelona in 2006, more than one million spectators lined the beaches to watch the spectacle. Aero GP is a very young sport that is developing very quickly and has had overwhelming public interest. The fast and furious nature of the competition is akin to air combat manoeuvring and the pilots show a level of skill and nerve of which to be proud. But, be warned, the hazards of the low level display arena have increased in parallel with these dynamic developments as the element of competition has been added to the permutation of variables with which the human psyche must address. Although only in its second year, the first Aero GP accident occurred in Malta during September when one pilot lost his life and both aircraft involved were destroyed. But, of course, in 2006 it was not all doom and gloom ­ the popularity of the standard aerial events on the international calendar was once again underscored as such events attracted crowds huge crowds. Millions of spectators worldwide attended aerial spectacles. For instance, the 26th Fleet Week Air Show, one of the largest air shows in the US held

over the period October 4 to 10, attracted more than a million spectators along the San Francisco waterfront. What other entertainment event can lay claim to such attendance figures? And then there is, of course, Oshkosh, billed as the world's largest gathering of recreational aviators, "AirVenture", a fly-in and convention of the Experimental Aircraft Association, attracted more than 10 000 aircraft and nearly 250 000 aviation enthusiasts from around the world. ACCIDENT STATISTICS From a statistical perspective, 2006 was the second worst recorded yet and at 18 accidents for the year, was two less than the worst year in 2002 which had 20. What is of more concern, though, is that this was five higher than the ten-year average of approximately 13. A further concern is that there has been a significant increase in the number of accidents since 2001. In fact, prior to 2001, the ten-year annual average was less than ten. So what exactly is going on out there? Certainly the number of air shows worldwide has increased as has the number of aircraft taking part. Additionally, aerobatic flying has become somewhat of a national sport in many countries where those pilots with access to funding, have bought themselves either sport aerobatic or vintage category aircraft and have developed themselves to show participant standard. AIRCRAFT CATEGORIES Compared with the statistical baseline of 225 air show accidents worldwide, and as has been the trend in the past few years, the aircraft category "Sport Aerobatic" provided the highest category of accident aircraft types, with 33% which was in excess of the historical average of 12%. This is a concern. Vintage aircraft contributed 22% to the 2006 statistics versus the historical average of 24% while the percentage contribution to air show accidents by military aircraft, also decreased by 7% to 33%. What is apparent is that although regulatory authorities, pilots and air show organisers have tightened the control and discipline of display flying at air shows, there is nothing to indicate that display pilots have managed to overcome the deficiencies of the human physiology in the hazardous environment of the low level display arena. More particularly, consistent accurate decision making, anticipation and judgement under extremes of high closing speeds, high rates of descent, high roll rates and high normal acceleration, remains a deficiency in the human physiology with no realistic solution at hand. The ever increasing performance of the World Airnews, March 2007. 5

Aero GP, contrary to Red Bull air races, has all the competitors airborne simultaneously, much like motor racing. This mid-air collision between a Yak-55 and an Extra 200 occurred off the coast of Malta last September resulting in the death of one of the pilots. Photo courtesy: Times of Malta.

sport aerobatic aircraft and fighters increases the gap between aircraft performance and human physiology. While fourth generation fighters are being provided with fly-by-wire flight control systems and sophisticated g-suits and pressure breathing equipment to handle the increased aircraft agility, no human support equipment is being provided for the sport aerobatic pilot. CAUSAL FACTORS The eighteen air show accidents in 2006 included five flight-into-terrain (28% versus 32%), five mid-air collisions (28% vs 23%), three loss-of-control (17% vs 18%), two structural failure (11% vs 6%), two mechanical failures (11% vs 15%) and one ground collision. Significantly, the contribution by man's component to air show accidents was 73% which was very close to the global average of 76%. Comparison between the current 2006 accident statistics and those of 225 randomly selected accidents, provided uncanny correlation. In terms of fatalities, the 18 accidents resulted in a total of eleven pilots being killed, two display pilots being injured and three passengers being killed. Those passengers that died were not directly involved in flying displays but were killed in accidents indirectly related to their attendance of that particular air show. From an air show organiser's perspective, no spectators or members of the public were killed or injured as a result of an air show or aerial demonstration. However, an air show organiser received serious burn injuries in attempting to extricate a pilot from a burning Extra 300. Most unusually and for the first time, two display pilots were forced to manually bale out of their crippled aircraft, one due to pitch control failure and the other as result of a midair collision. In keeping with the statistical average 70:30 air show accidents versus display practice accidents, of the 18 accidents recorded, 13 occurred during air shows and five occurred during display practice for upcoming air shows. This is indicative that display pilots fly "harder" at air shows than during practice, which is quite natural but the adage used by the military is to "fly as you train". This implies that the practices should be flown as realistically as possible so as to be able to enter the display arena properly prepared, mentally and physically, and most importantly, psychologically. A display pilot, just as a fighter pilot, cannot practice under one set of conditions and then display under another.

Considering the last ten-year period, 2006 was not a good safety year for air show accidents being the second highest during the past decade.


UAE F-16: January 9. ­ Within the first nine days of the year, the air show accident curse reared its ugly head during the five-day Al Ain International Air show. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Air Force had purchased .80 new block-60 F-16s, which were not yet even in service within the US Air Force. Lockheed Martin leased one of these F16s back from the UAE Air Force for demonstration flights at the show. Lockheed Martin test pilot, Dan Levin, was practicing for the air show around midday and reminiscent of the now well-known Thunderbirds F-16 accident at Mountain Home Air Base in 2003, the aircraft lifted off the runway and went straight into the display routine by pulling vertically before performing a split-S. However, approaching the desert floor on the downline, the pilot could not manage to complete the manoeuvre in the available height remaining and hit the ground in full burner with a high sink rate. Fortunately, due to the `flat' attitude of the aircraft at impact, the aircraft bounced and, prior to impacting the ground a second time, Levin "punched out". Although Levin ejected, his parachute did not have sufficient time to deploy fully and in the hard-landing, he suffered a punctured lung, a shattered pelvis and compound fractures of both feet and ankles. Considering the severity of the accident, he was lucky to get away with his life. Unfortunately, in their rush to get to the crash

site, one of the fire tenders rolled in the desert, causing injuries to the fire fighters. One can only question the report from one of the South African contingent's display pilot's on whether the safety briefing had any role to play here. The briefing by the air show safety officer was apparently: "as low as you like and the boss likes the wild stuff!" IAF Kiran Mk II Surya Kiran: March 18 ­ Five weeks later, two pilots of the Indian Air Force's Surya Kiran (Rays of the Sun) aerobatic team were killed when two of the Kiran Mk II aircraft collided with one another at low-level during a practice on the outskirts of Bida,r in north Karnataka, India. The tail of one of the three-ship formation hit another during a manoeuvre marking the first crash for the Surya Kiran team and killing the pilots, Squadron Leader Singh and Wing Commander Bhatia. Although both pilots ejected, the aircraft attitude and height above ground level at the time of ejection was out of safe seat ejection parameters. The aircraft crashed into a field, fortunately without civilian casualties or damage to property on the ground despite the wreckage being scattered over five acres behind a Dental College. Part of the wing was found on the campus. Oracle Challenger: April 4 ­ In 2003, US aerobatic display pilot Sean Tucker, was named one of the 25 "Living Legends of Flight" by the Smithsonian Institute, USA. In a rather remarkable event, Tucker had to parachute from his Oracle Challenger biplane World Airnews, March 2007. 7

over the I Hope Plantation farm south of Coushatta, LA, after mechanical failure of the elevator control linkage during a practice flight in the aerobatic box at the Coushatta airport. Tucker believed a rod end bearing connecting a modified torque tube linkage on the aircraft's new tail, failed, rendering the aircraft uncontrollable in pitch. Using pitch trim only, he was eventually able to put the aircraft into a stabilised climb to 8 000 feet during which time he explored his options. Upon determining that a safe landing was not possible, a suitable location was found to conduct a safe bailout that would minimise any chance of personal or property damage on the ground. Tucker jettisoned the canopy, which hit his head, thankfully protected by a helmet, and bailed out As Tucker pulled the ripcord on his emergency parachute, the Oracle Challenger plummeted to the ground. Tucker was able to make a safe, controlled parachute landing and he continued the show season with his back-up aircraft, while the team looked to build a new primary aircraft. F-86 Sabre: April 8 ­ A Korean War-vintage North American F-86 Sabre dubbed "Flying Fossil," experienced problems landing, following a Heritage Flight performance at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base outside Tucson, Arizona. The Sabre, flown by a civilian pilot Wyatt Fuller, under contract to the USAF for the Air Combat Command Heritage Flight Conference, pulled off a near perfect two-wheel, emergency landing, left and nose-wheel gear down, during the River Region Air Show at Maxwell AFB. Nine other aircraft participating in the Heritage Flight, in which current air force fighters fly in formation with their older jetand-propeller-driven ancestors, had to be diverted to Tucson International Airport. The incident happened around lunchtime and delayed aerial demonstrations by other aircraft participating in the show for about an hour and a half. Flying Fossil looked just a little worse for wear after the incident but it just goes to show that, although they built them tough back in the F-86's heyday during the Korean War, it always helps to have a skilled pilot at the controls.

This secquence of photos at right was taken during a tail chase at Bratislava's Vajnory Airfield (see story) and shows the Fokker Triplane having clipped the tailplane of the Nieport 17 with the Nieport striking the ground (bottom picture)

(Photo courtesy [email protected])

8 World Airnews, March 2007.

Cessna A-37 Dragonfly: May 5 ­ A Royal Korean Air Force A-37 Dragonfly, part of the Black Eagles demonstration team, crashed at Suwon Air Base, south of Seoul, during an air show to celebrate `Children`s Day'. The wings of two of the A-37s clipped each other during a planned crossing manoeuvre at about 2 300 feet altitude. Capt Kim Do-hyun did not eject and died when his aircraft hit the ground about 300 metres away from a spectator stand. None of the 3 000 spectators, who were mostly children and their parents, was injured and the Air Force immediately called off the event. In a media report, a former Korean fighter pilot claimed that the A-37 model was "unsuitable" for air shows and required increased performance to safely perform fancy aerial displays. The Korean Air Force replied that there were no other alternatives for the A-37 model. "Smaller jetfighters are required for the aerial display but it is hard to find planes that are similar to the A-37," said an official. The Black Eagles team suffered a similar midair accident during an air show rehearsal in Chuncheon, east of Seoul, in 1998. Pitts Special: May 22 ­ Aerobatics can be hard on an airframe, even when the aircraft is one of the sturdier designs in the business. Steve Falon found that out the hard way when the propeller of his Pitts S-1-S separated from the aircraft while practicing for an upcoming air show in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. He executed a dead-stick landing in a pasture north of Hartford, SD. It was suggested that a bird-strike may have resulted in the propeller separation but this could not be confirmed. Falon's 350 kg Pitts was equipped with a 180 hp Lycoming and the propeller was a fixed pitch model, so the economic and mechanical damage was a bit easier to deal with than it might have been had the aircraft been running a more expensive constant speed version. BD-5J: June 16 ­ Scott Manning (48) died when his Bede BD-5J microjet went down during a practice flight, in preparation for a scheduled performance at the weekend's "Air Show Ottawa". The accident occurred near Carp Airport, west of Ottawa. Manning was known as the tallest BD-5 pilot in the world, standing 6' 3" tall. Going by the callsign "Kato", Manning was the lead pilot for Microjet Canada, and flew the BD-5 jet dubbed "The Stinger" at air shows throughout Canada. Manning's BD-5J was one of just six BD-5 jets flying in the world. A witness said Manning's aircraft performed a barrel-roll manoeuvre and impacted 10 World Airnews, March 2007.

Mechanical failure remains a threat not only to newer front line fighters, but particularly to vintage aircraft. Photo: Pierce Haviland. the ground during the last 90 degrees of the manoeuvre, killing the pilot instantly. Manning had been performing at air shows since 2004 and had built the single-seat microjet himself. No one on the ground was injured. RV-6A and RV-8: June 18 ­ In the early part of the morning, a four-ship `Diamond-9' formation of homebuilts arrived overhead the Illinois Valley Regional Airport to attend the Illinois Valley Air show where their aircraft would be on static display. The pilot of the RV-8 lead aircraft in the formation, reported that the flight of four was established on initial Runway 18 when he turned overhead for downwind. He stated that he pulled up and started a turn to downwind but shortly after starting his turn, he felt the impact of another aircraft. He was able to maintain control of the RV-8 and subsequently landed on Runway 36. An eye witness subsequently reported that the four evenly spaced aircraft were 800 to 1 000 feet above ground level and proceeded to make a descending turn. As the formation was established southbound, at about 200 feet agl, the lead airplane executed a climbing left turn away from the other aircraft. Approximately two seconds later the second aircraft began a left climbing turn. The witness reported that this aircraft "appeared to turn and climb much more aggressively than the lead aircraft and during the turn, the second airplane "merged with the lead aircraft from below and from the left." The second aircraft, the RV-6A, subsequently entered a near vertical, slow spiral descent in a nose down attitude and was destroyed on impact. The pilot of the RV-6A sustained fatal injuries. Lambada: June 24 ­ With the exception of one incident in which the Lambada motorised glider display pilot, Reiner Friebose, undershot the landing area, the annual Tzaneen Citrazine (South Africa) air show ran its usual professional course. On completion of his sequence, Friebose

pulled up and positioned for a dead-stick landing on the runway at right angles to the showline, but as a result of inadequate energy, the aircraft could not complete the base leg turn and the right-wing of the Lambada impacted and cartwheeled into three aircraft parked adjacent to the secondary runway. A Cessna 210 and a .Piper Cub were damaged. With fuel spilling out of the Lambada, the pilot emerged shaken but unscathed and emergency services quickly brought the situation under control. Hawker Hunter: July 16 ­ The annual Hillsboro air show in Oregon, USA, was cancelled early following a tragic crash. A 1951 Hunter Hawker had been on static display and the pilot, Robert Guilford, 73, attorney, warbird CFI, 4 000 hours, had just finished refuelling his aircraft for the return home to California, when his request for a `fly-by' was approved. It is not clear exactly what happened next, but after takeoff, the pilot flew a pattern and turned base over a residential neighbourhood for the flypast. He did not make it back to the airport. The aircraft went down about two miles east of the airport, and burst into flames. Positioning for the run-in, the aircraft pitched nose-up, dropped a right wing and impacted the ground in a plume of smoke, marking the first accident in the 19-year history of the popular air show. The aircraft crashed into a private home which was totally destroyed while the two neighbouring homes were badly burned. A fire official reported that the intense heat of the fire appeared to have completely melted the aircraft and suggested that finding identifiable human remains might be difficult. Miraculously, there were no injuries on the ground as the owners of the three homes were not at home. The show was immediately cancelled and the streets in that section of Hillsboro, a suburb of Portland, were in gridlock. A witness told KATU-TV that the aircraft had a flamedout at 1 000 feet. "The pilot tried to bank left to attempt an emergency landing but that there was no power and the plane dropped quickly," he said. Grumman TBM-3 Avenger and Vans RV-6: July 30 ­ It was about as tragic an accident as has ever been seen on Wittman Field, Oshkosh, but the NTSB shed some light on the circumstances that surrounded this accident. Around midday, a Grumman TBM-3, Avenger, operated by the Tri-State Warbird Museum, sustained minor damage when it taxied into an amateur-built Vans RV-6. Both aircraft were taxiing for takeoff on Papa taxi-

about a potential threat of another accident. However, Malta Aviation Society president, Joseph Ciliberti, reassured residents that the manoeuvres would be carried out over the airfield, not the residential areas. The councils described the air show as an "unnecessary danger". They accused the organisers of only being concerned about the buffer zone between the aircraft and paying spectators that made the show financially sustainable, while disregarding residential areas. Aero L-29: September 22 ­ South African aerobatic pilot, Martin van Straaten, was tragically killed when the L-29 Delfin he was flying in the Sasol Tigers team, crashed into Table Bay. The three-ship Sasol Tigers team had taken off from Air Force Base Ysterplaat as part of a team `photoshoot' with the SAAF Silver Falcons aerobatic team. On completion of the `photoshoot' and while positioning the formation for the approach to the airfield, the L-29 Delfin nosed-over and plunged into the sea, approximately 500 metres offshore. Team-mates were baffled as to why the aircraft crashed: "I'm just not sure what happened. We were moving in to land, it was our final approach. There were no radio calls, no warning, and then suddenly he just dropped out of formation, and down" said Ralf Dominick who led the L-29 Delfin aircraft in formation. Scale Replica Fokker DR.1 and Nieuport 17: September 30 ­ Two 20% scale replicas of the Czech Republics Flying Circus, a Fokker Triplane Dr.I and a Nieuport 17, were the main feature for the air show at Bratislava's Vajnory airfield. During their display, the Fokker Dr.I clipped the tail of the Nieuport 17 which, without the stabilising contribution of an empennage, nosed-over into steep dive and crashed straight into the ground. Amazingly, the 37-year old pilot survived with a broken arm and leg and concussion. The replica Fokker Triplane was able to land safely. A possible mitigating factor in the mid-air collision was `sun position'. It was surmised that in the particular phase of the engagement, the Triplane's pilot could possibly have been blinded by the sun, which was directly in front. Maybe there is some truth in the old fighter pilot adage: "Beware of the Hun in the Sun". Although there was no injury to spectators or collateral damage, the show was closed early due to the accident. Extra 300L: October 4 ­ A fatal crash occurred during the display by the second performer at the 14th annual Tucumcari Rotary Club Air Show in New Mexico. Police identi-

It was about as tragic an accident as has ever been seen on Wittman Field, Oshkosh. Around midday on July 30, a Grumman TBM-3, Avenger sustained minor damage when it taxied into an amateur-built Vans RV-6 killing the passenger aboard the smaller aircraft. way, which parallels Runway 18 at the Wittman Regional Airport. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident. The propeller of the Avenger sliced into the RV and the passenger Gary Palmer, 63, president of EAA Chapter 245 in Ottawa, was killed. The pilot of the RV, Donald Reed, 58, of Carp, Ontario, was unhurt, as were the two on board the Avenger. The pilots and passengers of both aircraft had attended the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2006 air show. From the statements gleaned from the pilots, it is clear that neither aircraft was aware of the other. The RV-6 pilot could obviously not see the Avenger taxiing behind, while the tail-wheeled Avenger pilot, with the restricted forward visibility due to the size of the aircraft nose, could not see directly ahead of the aircraft. The Avenger pilot reported that he taxied at a very slow speed with the propeller idling at 800 rpm and that the Avenger had no mechanical defects and that the brakes were in good working condition. He reported that when he heard the impact and saw debris flying, he immediately shut down the engine and that he never saw the airplane that he had hit. A possible contributory cause to the accident was the relatively narrow 10,6-metre width of the taxiway which prevented a large angular change from the taxiway centreline and as such, the pilot could only make shallow S-turns within the confines of the taxiway width. Aircraft on the taxiway are not controlled by ATC or by EAA marshallers. Yak-55 and Extra 200: September 10 ­ Swedish aerobatic champion, Gabor Varga, was killed off the coast of Malta when his aircraft, a Yak-55, named "The Greasy Goose", collided with an Extra 200 piloted by Irishman Eddie Goggins. 12 World Airnews, March 2007. The aircraft were taking part in only the second Aero Grand Prix in Valetta, Malta, where eight teams had entered from around the world (see photo sequence on Page 5). The accident unfolded before the eyes of thousands of horrified spectators who had gathered in the port area to watch this spectacular event. From the video footage, it appears that both aircraft entered a right-hand turn with Goggins trailing Varga in the six o'clock position, but slightly above. From this position, Goggins could have lost visual on Varga, slightly below him. It is not clear whether Goggins pushed the Extra's nose down to get visual with Garba, or Garba pulled up, but the final result was that the Extra's propeller chopped off the empennage of the Yak-55 with devastating consequences. Varga's aircraft instantly plunged into the ocean. Goggins used the excess energy from the Extra 200 to pull-up and gain sufficient height to bail out manually before it, too, plunged into the water ­ his orange and white parachute deployed as he hit the water. He was rescued almost immediately by Maltese patrol boats and although not seriously injured, required treatment at St. Luke's Hospital. An autopsy revealed that Varga died after drowning and rupturing a lung with the impact pressure. Varga, 45, was known as the "Wild One" and is in the Guinness Book of World Records for performing the greatest number of aerobatic loops in an hour, a total of 256. The GP was cancelled immediately after the accident and the harbour was closed to sea traffic for the investigation. Quite understandably, a few days later, eight local councils took a common stand against the following weekend's upcoming Malta International Air show, raising concern

fied the victim as Dr. Guy Baldwin, a 60-yearold Tulsa, family doctor and aviation medical examiner who performed at air shows flying for the `Make-A-Wish Foundation' of Oklahoma. Baldwin's Extra 300L went down while performing a loop; there was insufficient height to complete the recovery dive. The aircraft impacted the ground at a high speed and the wreckage, the nose badly damaged with the fuselage largely intact, skidded approximately 70 metres before coming to rest. The rest of the show was cancelled. A holder of multiple aircraft ratings including ATP, seaplane and helicopter, Baldwin had logged over 4 000 hours in numerous aircraft during his 35 years of flying and, in 2003, was voted Oklahoma Aviator of the Year.He began performing at air shows in 2002 but this was his first appearance at the Tucumcari Rotary Club Air show. Extra 300: October 14 ­ In the early afternoon of the Culpeper Airfest at Regional Airport, Culpeper, Virginia, an Extra 300 was destroyed when it impacted terrain, fatally injuring the certificated commercial pilot, Nancy Lynn. She had been performing aerobatic manoeuvres for about seven minutes along runway 04-22 when the accident occurred. The pilot was performing multiple snap rolls on a 45° down line, and during the manoeuvre, an FAA inspector heard the announcer state that the aircraft was in the fourth turn of a five turn demonstration. The inspector also noted the altitude of the aircraft in reference to the ground and shouted "NO", as he did not believe the aircraft could complete another roll and still clear the ground. A review of video footage revealed that the aircraft completed two left-turning rolls at an approximately 40° descent angle, but during a third roll, the trajectory changed toward a more vertical descent. Following that, three additional left rolls were also completed in the steep descent trajectory. After recovering from the last roll, the aircraft stabilised in an estimated 45° nosedown, 20° left-wing-down attitude. Everything seemed to happen at once; as the pilot levelled the wings and achieved an almost level attitude, the aircraft simultaneously impacted the ground, east of Runway 22, on all three wheels, in a 3-point landing attitude. The aircraft continued on the grass and it seemed that the right wing started to lift, then the aircraft started to tumble. Lynn's 18-year-old son, Peter, was narrating his mother's performance as the accident occurred. He immediately rushed to the scene, 14 World Airnews, March 2007.

An F-18's stabiliser "bites the dirt" as the pilot tries to bring the fighter under control after having burst both main tyres during landing from a display. Photo: Craig Nashville. along with Culpeper County Administrator Frank Bossio, as the aircraft caught fire. Lynn suffered burns over about 90% of her body and Bossio was treated for second degree burns to his hands from his attempts to free Lynn from the burning wreckage. This was the first crash in the 10-year history of the air show and was the second fatal crash to strike the US air show community in as many weeks. F-18 Super Hornet: November 12 ­ Over the weekend at the Pensacola Air show, the 200 000 spectators got a "little extra." After an impressive flight demonstration, an F-18F from VFA106 Gladiators, performed, albeit unintentionally, a breathtaking ground demonstration! The Super Hornet came in to land and almost immediately upon touching down there was a loud "bang" as the aircraft blew a tyre. The pilot slowed down the aircraft and held it on the runway until the other tyre burst, then it broke loose. The back end of the Super Hornet came around and with the pilot fighting to maintain control of the aircraft. Things got out of hand as the aircraft spun around, almost through a complete 360º until finally the tail end went off the runway and into the dirt. The stabilisers dug in, the nose lifted up, and for a moment it looked as if the jet would flip over backwards. Fortunately, at that stage, the energy had dissipated to such an extent that the aircraft came to a grinding halt. The aircrew evacuated the aircraft quickly and the jet remained there in that position for the rest of the show. Grob SPn: November 29 ­ Grob chief test pilot, Gérard Guillaumaud, aged 45, was conducting a performance demonstration flight with the second of only two SPn prototypes, to a group of invited company guests. This was the second flight of the day for this aircraft. Shortly after take-off from the manufacturer's Mattsies-Tussenhausen, German facility, on turning in to commence the demonstration, the aircraft impacted the ground. Captain Guillaumaud had 25 years' experience in flying, 18 of them in the French Air Force and at the Air Force Test Centre. He had flown a wide range of aircraft from Mirage F1 fighter jets to light aircraft and helicopters and had performed a total of about 260 flight hours on the SPn type. CONCLUSIONS Considering the foregoing accidents, if any lesson was once again reconfirmed, it was that air show accidents do not discriminate between military or civilian pilots, between instructors or test pilots, between young or old, between highly experienced pilots or lower time pilots. This overview once again confirmed that pilot judgement, or mis-judgement remains the single biggest threat to the air show pilot, not necessarily piloting skill. This is how it has always been and this is how it will continue to be as long as the human remains the weakest link in the safety chain. In nearly all the case studies, the display pilots were highly experienced with impressive qualifications, knowledgeable and were in practice. What then was the missing element in mid-air collisions and flight-into-terrain? Pilot Judgement! The causes of lossof-control may be found in poor piloting skills in most cases. The survival tool the display pilot has to develop is Good Consistent Judgement but this can only be achieved through possessing the necessary knowledge of the aircraft's performance and handling qualities, regular practice and using disciplined `energy gate' parameters of energy and attitude, within the display sequence. In display flying, there is `Zero Error Margin' and with the 2007 air show season soon upon the South African display circuit, professionalism and a total commitment throughout the whole season is required if a zero accident rate is to be recorded.



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