Have you ever asked ‘why did I do that?’


Most of us have had moments when we have said to ourselves “Why did I do that?” It usually occurs after we did something while distracted or did something simply without thinking.

The Cessna 150G aircraft was on the ramp and the pilot was unable to start the engine. The pilot exited the aircraft and left the magnetos on and mixture rich while he walked to the front of the aircraft to hand start the engine. The engine kicked over and the propeller severely injured the pilot’s hand. This pilot had never hand propped an aircraft before and was not aware of how to do it correctly.

A private Stinson was inbound to land and the pilot was advised of a thunderstorm cell five miles north moving towards the airport. The pilot elected to continue inbound. While the aircraft was on final for Runway 34, the pilot was provided with a wind check 360 at 30 knots. When the aircraft was on the ground approximately 1,000 feet down Runway 34 the pilot advised of a prop strike and from the FSS, the prop appeared stopped.

The window of the Cessna 185 on floats opened during the take-off run. The pilot was attempting to shut the window during the take-off when he realized the aircraft had departed the intended take-off path. He then chose to abort the takeoff. Upon reducing power, the aircraft nosed over and flipped on its back. The pilot evacuated the aircraft via the right passenger door and swam to shore. He was not injured and was rescued the next day when the aircraft became overdue. The aircraft was substantially damaged.

A JAZZ aircraft that was holding short of the runway advised the Tower Controller that a Cessna in the circuit appeared to have a tow bar attached. The C-152 in the circuit was instructed to fly a low approach and the Tower Controller observed a tow bar attached to the nose wheel. The pilot landed his C-152 safely with Crash/Rescue standing by.

The Tower cleared the pilot of a Diamond DA-20 for a stop and go on Runway 26. The pilot completed the stop and then attempted to take off from approximately 3/4 of the way down the runway. The aircraft became airborne, but lost altitude and landed in a field off the end of the runway. There apparently was no damage and no injury to the pilot. The aircraft was pushed back onto the runway and the pilot resumed circuits.

The Dash 8 crew performed a maintenance run-up next to a ramp construction site. Dust and debris were blown all over the ramp.

Most (all) of us have at one time or another attempted something we were not trained or equipped for. We likely got away with whatever it was with no injury or less of an injury than the C150G pilot. We also likely kicked ourselves mentally around the block.

The Stinson pilot ignored the approaching thunderstorm and the associated weather. He obviously thought he could handle the winds given. He likely did not anticipate gusts or a wind direction change in the few minutes remaining before landing. Winds can (and do) change in intensity and direction in near proximity to thunderstorms without warning. The A.I.M. discusses the hazards of landing or taking off with thunderstorms in the area.

The C185 pilot was distracted while attempting to close the window while on the take-off slide causing the loss of directional control. The C-152 pilot was likely distracted during the preflight inspection and therefore missed removing the tow bar. Distractions are the number one cause of forgetting.

We should either ignore a distraction such as an open window until we are airborne or until after we have aborted the take-off. If a distraction occurs during a pre-flight inspection or during the use of a checklist, we should go back at least three steps in the procedure or start the procedure over. We tend to think at least three steps ahead of what we are doing so when returning to the task after the distraction, we often begin again at least three steps ahead of where we actually were.

We have all acted without thinking or being aware of our surroundings. The DA 20 pilot had likely performed touch and goes or stop and goes on that runway many times without any problem.

This particular day he landed long or took his time coming to a stop and then took off again without thinking about how far down the runway he was.

The Dash 8 pilots didn’t think about how close they were to apron construction and performed the maintenance run-up without thinking about the consequences.

We are all prone to complacency where we do not pay enough attention to what we are doing or to our surroundings and may act without thinking a situation through. We are all occasionally distracted by outside or peripheral influences at critical moments and act without thinking a situation through.

We must all try to avoid complacency by realizing that we can become complacent and take extra care in performing our flying duties and avoid doing things we are not adequately trained for.

Distractions are more difficult to deal with. We must try to eliminate them as much as we are able and when they happen we must realize they are occurring and not let them take our attention from what we are doing during critical phases of flight.

Dale Nielsen is an ex-Armed Forces pilot and aerial photography pilot. He lives in Abbotsford, B.C., and currently flies medevacs from Victoria in a Lear 25. Nielsen is also the author of seven flight training manuals published by Canuck West Holdings.