The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) generates accident reports any time a reportable glider accident occurs. This information is open to the public and can be found at www.ntsb.gov/ntsb. Once on the accident query page, enter the term “glider,” which retrieves all reports pertaining to gliders to include tow plane accidents. It is important for pilots to review NTSB accident reports and learn what the common errors and hazards are that apply to glider operations. Learning from others mistakes helps reduce future accident rates.
An NTSB query from November 1, 2010, through October 31, 2011, shows 27 glider accidents. Shown in Figure 13-2 are some of the accidents reported during that time to include the type of aircraft, injuries, and the probable cause of the accident (if given).
Recognizing Hazardous Attitudes
It is important that pilots ensure their flight is safe by following procedures and checklists rather than hope for a safe flight and doing things they know are not right. As technological advances have contributed to fewer mechanical failures, which in turn has created a much safer air space, human error remains a constant factor in aviation accidents. There is a wealth of information available that focuses on unsafe behaviors and attitudes. For the purpose of this chapter, three common behaviors are addressed: complacency, indiscipline, and overconfidence. While complacency, indiscipline, and overconfidence share a common theme (each stem from experience), it is necessary to further delineate on the contributions of attitude-behavior linkage. To do so, we must further explore each term respectively.
Often glider operations can seem less stressful than other modes of flight for no other reason than the “meditative silence” that accompanies gliding through the air. This is why complacency can easily materialize. Complacency is when a person has a sense of security about one’s surrounding yet fails to recognize or lacks awareness of possible danger. As pilots accrue flight time, their experience increases and, while one might view this as positive, their experience complacency may emerge. All too often, with experience comes boredom, a desire to cut corners, distractibility, feelings of content, minimal performance, and intentionally overlooking basic safety precautions (i.e., “I’ve done this a million times, it is not necessary to follow a checklist.”).
A few countermeasures include:
- Never assume all facets related to the flight will go smoothly.
- Always prepare and expect the unexpected.
- Play the “what if” game and offer solutions to the scenarios you create.
The key to preventing complacency is keeping your mind sharp at all times by “being proactive rather than reactive.”
Much like complacency, as pilots gain experience the failure to comply with certain standards seem to be evident in many aviation accidents. Either they feel their experience has taught them an easier or faster way to do certain tasks, or their attitude is not in alignment with the guidelines set forth by more experienced aviators. Nevertheless, indiscipline can be a very dangerous attitude that can easily lead to unsafe behaviors.
Similarly to complacency, familiar circumstances or repetition can lead to a state of overconfidence. Developing and maintaining a sense of confidence toward your abilities is acceptable unless it leads to cutting corners and ignoring proper procedure.
Human error is defined as a human action with unintended consequences. There is nothing inherently wrong or troublesome with error itself, but when you couple error with aviation and the negative consequences that it produces it becomes extremely troublesome. Training, flight examinations (written or oral), and operational checks should not be restricted to attempt to avoid errors but rather to make them visible and identify them before they produce damaging and regrettable consequences. Simply put, human error is not avoidable but it is manageable. [Figure 13-3]
Types of Errors
An unintentional error is an unintentional wandering or deviation from accuracy. This can include an error in your action (a slip), opinion, or judgment caused by poor reasoning, carelessness or insufficient knowledge (a mistake). For example, a pilot reads the glider performance numbers from the Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH) and unintentionally transposed the number 62 to 26. He or she did not mean to make that error but unknowingly and unintentionally did.
In aviation, an intentional error should really be considered a flight violation. If someone knowingly or intentionally chooses to do something wrong, it is a violation, which means that one has deviated from safe practices, procedures, standards, or regulations.