Predicting History


He is livid on a January morning outside New York City.  His Cessna P210R is not fueled and ready as he requested earlier in the week.  ”Sir,” the airport personnel plead, “there’s 6 inches of snow on the ground with freezing rain.  Look, no one else is flying.”  He insists they clear the ramp and de-ice his plane.

His wife begs, “Don’t be foolish, Darling.  Try another day.”

“My plane is certified for icing conditions,” he replies.

Does this pilot…

  1. Look into his wife’s eyes and realize the wisdom of her plea
  2. Get stuck in the snow after taxiing less than 100 yards
  3. Fly safely to his destination
  4. Takeoff and crash his equipped-for-icing-conditions plane 

I wouldn’t have anything to write about if the answer was 1 or 3 and this post would be really short if the answer was 4.  Perhaps most, um…, interesting is visualizing him walking back to the FBO after getting his plane stuck.  

Fast forward about 2 months.  He arrives aound 9:30 AM with 3 passengers to fly to Sarasota, Florida.  The airport near New Orleans has low visibility and is amid multiple thunderstorms.  If you aren’t familiar with Gulf Coast weather, thunderstorms on a morning in March is not good for anybody in the air or on the ground.   

A witness asks why the pilot and passengers why they don’t just stay another day to wait out the weather.  Does this pilot say…

  1. “I have to stay another day in New Orleans due to weather?  Bummer.”  Then go to the French Quarter.
  2. “…the weather is no problem” and launch.  

Alas, this is not a post about good decisions.  The answer must be 2.

Flying IFR over southeast Mississippi, our pilot hears a broadcast announcing SIGMETs for the Alabama and Florida.  He reports very soon after conditions are a “little rough” at 21,000 feet.  Five minutes later he informs ATC he is having trouble with gyros and is descending.  Does he…

  1. Ask for clearance to a nearby airfield with an instrument approach and safe weather.
  2. Search for VMC and press on.
Do I have to ask at this point?
Cessna N55MM crashed near Bay Minette, Alabama on March 1, 1994.  Pieces of the wings were strewn along a path approximately 4 and a half miles long leading up to the engine, fuselage, and empennage.  The cabin section had been flattened to a height of approximately 18 inches.
The bad decision to attempt flying in the conditions in January was certainly not the first one made by this pilot.  Those who knew him very likely knew how dangerous he was.  In other words, I doubt they were surprised at the news of the death of this pilot and his 3 passengers.  

Do you know a pilot you believe will have an accident?  
Information in this post drawn from the NTSB Factual Report on Accident ATL94FA056, which can be found via the NTSB Aviation Accident Database

What say you?