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Thread: A Look at Aerobatics Accident Statistics

  1. #11
    rwanttaja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2ndsegment View Post
    Why did you exclude "engine failure." Have you never heard of "Tillie" from WW-II and her diaphram for Spitfires to fly negative "g's"? Or an inverted flight tank? Saber jets, barrel roll, Phantoms oblique loop into chandelle. Don't neglect "inverted oiling system" as a missing element in aerobatic capability. This is WW-I stuff. SPADS and Nieuports? And of course can we clump oil and fuel tanks together for two strokes? Gas Turbines are beyond Brinnell with ETOPS and run dry for endurance right side up.
    Because it was not relevant to the question I was asked. To recap: "Wes Liu suggested that I take a look at aerobatics-related accidents, specifically those that occur in airplanes not approved for aerobatics, and to low-time pilots trying to teach themselves aerobatics." Mechanical failure accidents were thus excluded. Cases where the power was lost due to fuel feed issues, etc. would be included as the NTSB would still rule the cause as being related to the aerobatics.

    Ron Wanttaja
    Last edited by rwanttaja; 04-10-2021 at 12:14 PM.

  2. #12
    My initial point of view comes from being asked to determine if the A-1 (AD) production line could be reopened. This was in 1965. As a first step I was asked to look at Navy Safety Center San Bruno data which included aspect and angle off for ballistic hits. You might think after the decision was made not to reopen that I would never be asked again about Survivability. After all a former VX-5 pilot took that on as his specialty for the next 13 years. Typically, in wartime about half of the losses are "operational" and not combat related. My experience could only be comparable to aerobatics if I saw the types of trajectories created as related to trajectories in combat. Guess what? I'm not an engineer of any kind. I'm a physicist. So when I was asked to go out to China Lake to see what the wife of the AIM-9L Program Manager was doing with Army BRL ballistics data to evaluate the survivability of a CH-53E helicopter ,I drove out to Mike Lab to see her work. This was more than a decade later. I will examine Wes Liu's suggestion. He was basically presenting a problem about the expectations of raw beginners. Something simple and cheap being pushed beyond it's safe use. There was a lot more data available to her and she did a much more detailed and well summarized job. Maybe you will have a similar expansion of your responsibility. I will you well.

  3. #13

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    Ron:

    Do you have any data that indicates the aerobatic time / experience of the pilots, as opposed to the total time?

    BJC

  4. #14
    rwanttaja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BJC View Post
    Ron:

    Do you have any data that indicates the aerobatic time / experience of the pilots, as opposed to the total time?
    Never seen any reference to aerobatic time, other than statements like, "an experienced acrobatic pilot"....

    Ron Wanttaja

  5. #15

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    The sample size is gratifyingly small but that makes the percentages hard to apply. We have a wide spectrum of pilots who own the Pitts/Skybolts/etc. Skybolts, Stardusters, EAA Biplanes and similar ships appear to be owned and flown by pilots who are very casual aerobats. We see them do the occasional low pass at a fly in. I will note that many of these airplanes are flown by second or third owners, not the original builder. You have likely read the observation that "there are builders and flyers". My observations match that. The number of individuals out there who build an airplane specifically to fly a lot of aerobatics is getting fewer and fewer.

    Many Eagles are on their second and third owners. We see many at IAC competitions but there is an equal or greater number that are 99% flown to fly-ins and the $100 hamburger. They are casual aerobats.

    The challenge and concern with all of the casual aerobats is knowledge and training. The easiest aerobatic figure to have you experience your first unintended inverted spin is a hammerhead with an early kick. Those of us who do a lot of aerobatics want anyone who aspires to fly a loop or roll to have some spin training that includes both upright and inverted rotations. The good news is that Ron's stats report very small numbers.

    Pitts owners tend to fit a different personality profile than Skybolt or even Eagle owners and pilots. The airplane's reputation as one of the most difficult airplanes on the planet to land means that you have to want to fly a Pitts. More motivation is required than for the other aerobatic airplanes. Stories abound, and I know of several, that someone buys a Pitts, flys one hop, and parks it. For sale again. Many landing accidents that only bend a wing are not reported, but Ron's stats on landing accidents in the different aerobatic airplanes likely shows significantly more Pitts accidents.

    Pitts generally fly a lot more aerobatics than Skybolts, Stardusters, and the other ships. And they fly more complex aerobatic figures at lower altitudes. The floor for the Intermediate category is 1200' and for Advanced it is 660'. My FAA authorized practice box has a floor of 1000' AGL. This provides the opportunity for mistakes to show up in Ron's statistics but all of the participants practice at much higher altitudes before venturing to the bottom of the box where the consequences for mistakes go up in severity. I find it gratifying that although we do not record flight hours in all of the aerobatic boxes across the country, given the number of flight hours that we accumulate, Ron's numbers are low.

    My original question was motivated by interest in whether our friends who buy an Eagle or a Skybolt and, without any formal instruction, go out to do their first loops and rolls, are having a large enough number of accidents that we should be really really concerned. In other countries you are not allowed to to exceed 60 degrees of bank and 30 degrees of pitch without formal training and an aerobatic endorsement on your pilot certificate. Not in the US. And Ron's numbers do not suggest that we need that in the US. Yes some of our friends will be stupid, but it is very hard to regulate stupidity and it appears that 99% of our friends are doing "good enough".

    Thanks to Ron for slicing-and-dice-ing the data.

    Wes
    1000 hour Pitts S-2A owner

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