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post #136 of Old 07-12-2013
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Re: Sailboat perishes off Hatteras, USCG rescues crew

Originally Posted by TJC45 View Post
Lot's of Monday morning quarterbacking going on in this thread regarding the rescue of the crew of this boat. As I sit here a week after two highly experienced airline captains managed to reach the ground before they reached the airport, driving their jumbo jet into the ground at SFO, I can only think what most other pilots are thinking about that situation - There but for the grace of God go I.
Pilots do the same thing on various message boards. Try to remember that there are somewhere in the realm of 3-5 general aviation accidents per day (most minor or non-fatal), so there are usually a bunch of posts with a bunch of responses on different boards.

I've found the replies there to be more educated and informative than on sailing boards when it comes to accident response, but at the same time, you usually have more information available (NTSB investigates all accidents and does a good job, most of the time) and the factors involved in 90% of accidents are usually the same (fuel exhaustion, VFR into IMC, flying into thundestorms). I think the quality of the responses is a result of the required education it takes to fly an airplane vs. sail a boat, most people on those boards will at least have 50 or 60 hours, with a likely average of around 1000, and there are a lot more experienced people (charter pilots, instructors, etc), resulting in better responses.

That said, you still get the long schpeals about "I'd never do this" or "I'd never do that" or "What a fool, I do x, y, and z so this never happens". What someone told me a long time ago is that no one departs with the intent of getting into an accident or intentionally does something stupid to kill themselves, it's always a chain of decisions that lead to the point of the accident and it is foolish to assume that you can't find yourself in the same situation. It only takes a few minor lapses in judgement to get you in a bad place, no matter how well you prepared.

You also have to question your decisions after the fact, even if you survive. These guys may have made the same trip in the same conditions 10 times before and been fine, but a few strokes of bad luck or mistakes this time lead them to needing rescue. I frequently found that NTSB reports indicate pilots in accidents had done what resulted in the accident several times before without incident. For example, I had a friend's instructor that flew a non-deiced A36 Bonanza into known icing conditions. When I called him out on it, he told me he had done it before and that the conditions at the time didn't meet the regulatory requirement for known icing. The fact was, there were pilot reports of icing along his route of flight for the 5 hours before he took off, airports along his route of flight reporting could cover and moisture at his altitude, and temps aloft were below freezing. The icing charts showed ice at his altitude. The worst decision of all was not diverting when he encountered the situation, rather he descended to below the minimum en route altitude along his route and flew that way for several hours. This could have killed him and everyone on board, but he survived. He had done it several times before and been fine. The arrogance of this situation aside, some people assume that because they did it once, it's therefore safe, which is not accurate. If you do something 100 times, it doesn't mean it won't kill you the 101st. In some situations, people rely on these experiences and go with it, rather than question the decision to they made on instance #1. You always need to question yourself and your decisions, no matter the result.

We are all accident prone based on our decisions and there are always factors that go into it. You do the best you can to mitigate your risks, but the reason these accidents happen are flaws in human nature. They will continue, all we can do is try to learn from them and call ourselves out on the stupid things we do, but that's not a guarantee.
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