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Are Plane Crashes Caused By Pilots Common

Are Plane Crashes Caused By Pilots Common

What is likely to be the main cause of a passenger plane crashing?
Mechanical failure? Or human error?

There are many people whose first assumption – after terrorism or hijacking is discounted – when a plane is lost is that some physical part has failed catastrophically. But mechanical failures alone account for only a small proportion of airliner crashes.

For fatal accidents, one calculation puts the primary cause as “pilot error” in 50% of all cases. One of the most common scenarios for a plane crash (more than a fifth of all fatal accidents between 2006-11, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization) is known as “controlled flight into terrain” (CFIT), referring to aircraft that were piloted into the ground, water, mountains or other terrain.

Flight Data Recorder
  • Data recorderElectronic device which records any instruction sent to any electronic system on aircraft
  • FDRs built to withstand force of high speed impact and heat of intense fire; usually mounted in aircraft tail section
  • Nicknamed “black box”, FDR is in fact coated in heat-resistant bright orange paint for easy visibility in wreckage. Source
Causes of Fatal Accidents by Decade

Plane Crash Stuatistcis
The table above is compiled from the PlaneCrashInfo.com accident database and represents 1,085 fatal accidents involving commercial aircraft, world-wide, from 1950 thru 2010 for which a specific cause is known. This does not include aircraft with 18 or less people aboard, military aircraft , private aircraft or helicopters.

“Pilot error (weather related)” represents accidents in which pilot error was the cause but brought about by weather related phenomena. “Pilot error (mechanical related)” represents accidents in which pilot error was the cause but brought about by some type of mechanical failure. “Other human error” includes air traffic controller errors, improper loading of aircraft, fuel contamination and improper maintenance procedures. Sabotage includes explosive devices, shoot downs and hijackings. “Total pilot error” is the total of all three types of pilot error (in yellow). Where there were multiple causes, the most prominent cause was used. Source: PlaneCrashInfo.com database

Top 10 Pilot Errors
  1. Weather. The more a pilot knows about it, the better. While thunderstorms, icing and winds claim their share of airplanes, the real weather gadfly are those serene, innocent-looking clouds and their cousin, fog.
  2. CFIT. Another common pilot error that often involves weather is controlled flight into terrain (CFIT). A simplified definition of CFIT is “flying a perfectly good airplane into the ground.”
  3. Poor Communication. Another boo-boo pilots seem to have an affinity for involves deficient communication. This difficulty of communicating comes in several forms. When dealing with air traffic control (ATC), pilots tend to hear what they want to hear. Good pilots anticipate what is coming next, including ATC instructions; however, this profound skill can trick the mind into “hearing” what is expected regardless of what actually filters into one’s headset.
  4. Low-Level Maneuvering. If you ever hear the words “watch this” from a pilot, look out! Pilots are notorious show-offs. How many times have you heard about the pilot who performs an impromptu air show for friends and significant others? A few low-level maneuvers later, and the plane is falling out of the sky. Some air show. The problem isn’t just that pilots are flying low to the ground; it’s this combination of flying too slow and in too tight of a turn that causes crashes.
  5. Inadequate Preflight Inspections. It’s amazing how many pilots mess up preflight inspections. A cursory walk around simply to “kick the tires” so you can hurry up and “light the fires” is beckoning for trouble. Take your time during your preflight.
  6. Inadequate Preflight Planning. Renowned classical novelist Miguel de Cervantes wisely said “forewarned forearmed.” Those who are prepared are equipped to deal with the tasks at hand. Typically, the level of preflight preparation is proportional to how smoothly the flight goes.
  7. Failure to Use a Checklist. Lots of pilots get into the mindset that flying is like riding a bike—something you can do easily out of memory. While it’s true that 99% of the time, you’ll remember to do everything required of the checklist, it’s that remaining 1% of the time when you forget to do something that will bite. You can make sure you complete everything you need to all the time if you consistently use a checklist.
  8. Failure to Perform the “I’M SAFE” Checklist. Another common error of pilots is forgetting to use the “I’M SAFE” checklist. For those who have forgotten what the letters stand for, here’s a reminder: Illness, Medication, Stress, Alcohol, Fatigue and Emotion (some say E is for Eating). Sick pilots have no place in a cockpit. Stress is commonplace in our fast-paced world, but there is a point at which it becomes so intense that it’s a distraction. Fatigue is a somewhat underrated no-go item. Many of us have flown when we’re not at our peak performance level. Alas, fatigue goes hand in hand with red eyes and transoceanic flights. But there are things that pilots can do to mitigate fatigue. Being well rested by planning ahead makes a big difference.
  9. Running Out of Fuel. It truly is unbelievable how many pilots run out of fuel every year. It’s interesting to note that most of these incidents occur not because, say, the fueler didn’t put enough gas on board. Instead, pilots try to push it just a little bit too far, running out of gas just short of their destination. That darned “get-there-itis” bug tends to afflict pilots all too often when it comes to fuel. Who wants to make an extra stop, anyway? But that 30-minute fuel stop is better than the one you’ll have to make when your tanks go dry.
  10. Mismanagement of Technology. Scientist and novelist C.P. Snow once said that “technology is a peculiar thing. It brings you great gifts in one hand and stabs you in the back with the other.” The mismanagement of technology is a pilot error that has come under particular scrutiny lately, as glass instrumentation has quickly been invading the cockpits of general aviation aircraft. Source
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The programs at Aviator Flight School are designed to provide what the airline industry demands of future commercial pilots. The training you will receive at Aviator is one of the most intensive and challenging programs offered in aviation flight training today.

During your flight training you will fly a total of 259 hours, of which up to 200 hours will be in a multi-engine aircraft. The ground school portion is in a structured classroom environment. As the shortage of pilots continues to grow, Aviator College is consistently meeting with major air carriers to determine the flight training and education that they require.

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