Saturday, 31 December 2016


The hits recorded on the Aerobility Safety Blog now number close to 4500, and our analysis reveals that a significant number of these have originated from outside the UK, covering a large area of the world, from the Americas through Europe to Russia and the Far East.

This is most encouraging, but indicates that some explanation may be needed for those of you who are unfamiliar with what Aerobility is all about, and so a brief resume follows below.

Aerobility is a UK-based Charitable Trust whose objective is to provide opportunities for life-enrichment to those who live with disability of whatever kind and however caused, so that they can enjoy aviation-related experiences which they perhaps believed were beyond attainment, or which they had not even considered possible. Flight operations are centred at Blackbushe airport (EGLK) to the South-West of London, with other UK areas covered as and when needed.

The organisation is managed on a daily basis by people who from personal circumstance are fully conversant with both disability and flying, supported by a small permanent Administrative Staff, Certificated Flying Instructors, and a team of Volunteers. Our work is largely funded by personal donation and Corporate sponsorship, and we are proud to provide services both to individuals and on behalf of several major UK fund-raising Charities dedicated to helping disabled children or adults, and injured ex-military personnel.

Our range of activities includes amongst other things:
  • ·       One-off ground-based group sessions to introduce aviation to children with physical disabilities or learning difficulties, either self-funded or sponsored by major Organisations which share our ideals and support us in delivering them
  • ·        Multi-session group education programmes for young-person or adult groups, which include ground-school topics and flying experiences both actual and simulated
  • ·        One-off first-flight experiences for individuals from all age-groups using our fleet of training aircraft, available with flight control modifications and full hoisting facilities where needed by those without full use of their lower limbs
  • ·       Full flight training to PPL level for adults with disability. Much of this training is  funded by bursary or scholarship awarded by our Sponsor-Partners

The work involved is highly satisfying and rewarding for us, as we see every day great improvement in self-confidence, social and communication skills and potential exhibited by our service-users.

The above is only meant as a brief outline, and any of you who would like to learn more about us can do so by visiting our main site at

This Safety Blog is simply an add-on intended as a supplementary pool of knowledge and experience derived from various sources, principally for those learning to fly, but also serving as an aide-memoire for those who might require the occasional memory-nudge! So please keep logging on every so often, and trawl back through the various articles, which could one day prove useful to you.


Wednesday, 14 December 2016


Acknowledgements: GASCO Flight Safety/CFI Adele Stephenson

Unlike in commercial aviation, where such things are generally prepared for the pilot by others, the private pilot needs to spend a considerable amount of effort and thought in order to determine a safety altitude for each flight.

The chances are, if the pilot wants to short-cut the process he or she will nominate a height which is too high (“Oh well, two thousand feet will do!”).

So when the unexpected weather appears ahead, what about that 2000 feet? It gives a good margin above high ground and obstructions, so why not slip below it for a bit to see how far ahead this weather extends?

This is the danger point, since once the decision is taken to descend below your nominated safety altitude there are no further limits; only collision with high ground or obstructions. So once you have descended to your nominated safety altitude that is exactly what it is. Either maintain it, or initiate your Plan B. (Ed. Note: You do have one, right?). Return or divert, without any messing about or “ducking below”!

So, your planned safety altitude has to be:
·         realistic, so that it removes all temptation to ignore it
·         set below your cruising altitude (this may seem too obvious to mention, but the advice “if you are lost, climb to your safety altitude … “ is known to have been uttered by at least one instructor! But why would you be flying below it in the first place, even in clear conditions?

There are so many things to consider in advance throughout your planned route, both to destination and selected diversion point, including:
·         the Law
·         low flying restrictions, for noise abatement or any other requirement
·         specified minimum altitudes over built-up areas
·         clearance above charted obstructions
·         high ground
·         topological up-draughts & down-draughts, which have adversely affected many a light aircraft
·         is your flight routed upwind of or on the lee side of high ground?
·         do you need to work to different safety altitudes for different sectors of your flight?
·         how far on either side of your planned track do you need your safety altitude to cover in order to account for divergence?

The time spent in pre-flight consideration of the ground conditions over which and close to which you will be flying will be well-spent in the event of need, so please give your safety altitude the respect it deserves, and once off the ground discipline yourself to honour it - it may even save your life!


Monday, 5 December 2016


Acknowledgements: AOPA & David J. Kenny
Fans of the British comedy troupe Monty Python share a particular fondness for the character of Ron Obvious, the first man ever to try to jump the English Channel. 
“How far is it across the Channel?” asks an interviewer (John Cleese).
“Oh, about 21 miles from Dover to Calais,” replies Mr. Obvious (Terry Jones).
“And what’s the farthest you’ve managed to jump in practice?”
“A little over six feet.”
Sure enough, the record jump attempt proves … anticlimactic!

The sketch provided a particularly sly reminder that willpower and optimism come out second best when they take on the laws of physics.

In general aviation, this is proven the hard way year after year by a tiny minority of aviators who feel that an immediate need to complete the flight outweighs the very real risk that they won’t. Making the attempt in the face of known mechanical problems, hazardous weather, or simple inexperience can vastly increase the cost of not reaching that destination.

Consider the following accident report and decide what you would/would not have done ……

The Cessna stopped for fuel at Columbia, Missouri on the way from Jackson, Tennessee to Sioux City, Iowa. It took on 26 gallons. While on the ground, its pilot called to get a weather briefing for the final leg. The briefer advised that Sioux City was IFR and expected to remain so. Low clouds covered much of the route, including northern Missouri and western Iowa, with tops reported between 2,500 and 4,500 feet. Weather in eastern Nebraska was “beautiful,” but instrument conditions also were expected to develop there around his ETA; temperature/dew point spreads were already narrow and decreasing. The pilot responded that his job and vehicle were in Sioux City, so the briefer identified Wayne, Nebraska, 28 nautical miles west-southwest, as the nearest airport reporting clear conditions.

They discussed the option of flying VFR over the cloud deck, but because the pilot was not instrument rated, the briefer suggested flying northwest to Kansas City, then turning north on the west side of the Missouri River. He also recommending stopping at Omaha to reassess the situation. The pilot replied that he’d decided to fly direct to Sioux City above the clouds, diverting to Wayne if conditions required. The briefer advised him to get weather updates en-route and provided him with a list of the appropriate frequencies.

The Cessna took off at 3:40 p.m., an hour and a half before sunset. The moon had gone down in mid-afternoon. The pilot requested and received flight following. Around 6:30 he reported clear skies and good visibility above the clouds to the Sioux City approach controller. The controller asked him to “let me know when you get ground contact” and advised that Sioux City was under a 700-foot overcast. Wayne and Norfolk, Nebraska, still reported clear skies. The pilot responded that he was beginning his descent without ground contact, adding “I’m sure I’m getting fairly close,” and said he planned to land on Runway 36 at Wayne.

Descending through 2,000 feet, less than 600 feet above ground level, he still could not see the ground. The controller provided an updated observation from 10 minutes earlier that included a 200-foot scattered layer at Wayne. The pilot continued to descend, reporting negative ground contact at 1,800 feet. Acknowledgement of the loss of radar contact was the last transmission received from him.

The wreckage was found in a small area at the end of a short debris path, suggesting a steep angle of impact. The next METAR from Wayne, six minutes after the accident, listed the ceiling as overcast at 200 feet. Norfolk, another 25nm southwest, stayed clear with good visibility for two more hours.

If he’d recognized his peril, made a second diversion and landed safely at Norfolk, he might have learned a vital lesson in risk assessment. A VFR pilot flying over a low overcast has nowhere to go in the event of engine trouble, illness, or anything else unexpected. It only gets worse at night. If he’d chosen a route that got him as close to home as possible while avoiding the clouds, whatever it is he needed to do still might not have got done the next day, but at least he’d have had a chance to do it the day after.