Stupid Pilot Tricks #1

Yesterday’s post reminded me that there is no end of stupid. For many reasons. I am one of those who read various NTSB reports: Accident summaries of the FAA. … not in the sense of Schedenfraude, but to learn and avoid repeating them. As I’ve said, an aviator really should learn from others mistakes because he/ she will never live long enough to make them all, learning the hard way.

Not that I would personally know anything about that of course

Which brings me to the subject of Stupid Pilot Tricks.  I do believe I have the granddaddy of them all. Readers- please feel free to comment if you can top this. The pilot and his passengers unfortunately all died in the crash of a Cessna Skywagon in the Palo Duro Canyon Park southeast of Amarillo. Witnesses observed the aircraft maneuvering at 50 feet above the ground. Four shot guns, plenty of ammo and fourteen empty cans of beer were found. Toxicology reported alcohol levels at .178 percent. (The Federal regulation prohibits a pilot from consuming alcohol before flight – “8 hours from bottle to throttle”).Why would shotguns and beer be in a plane?

Bird hunting.

 Of course! Why wait for birds to come to you when you can go to them? A real time saver.  Plus there’s better pickings in the state park. We have the rest of the story since one of the passengers survived long enough to tell the tale. All four occupants, including the pilot joined in the festivities with four barrels pointed outward and blasting away. Finding birds in the park was easy. Getting close enough to bag them required precision flying and shooting, neither of which the pilot was capable. He didn’t even have a valid license. Drinking beer didn’t improve marksmanship either. But shoot they did, at everything that moved. About 70 times. After missing all the birds they went after a hawk which, at that point, veered skyward. The pilot and rear passenger let loose in unison with buckshot striking the left wing This left a gaping hole and tore off the wingtip. Loss of control led to impact shortly thereafter. The NTSB Conclusion: Unauthorized low flight and buzzing. Poor judgment. Impairment due to alcohol. Failure to maintain flying speed. Pilot error……and in my book, top honors for the Darwin Award.

You might say that no one else would try and match such a brain impaired stunt. But you’d be wrong. There was a Super Cub (PA-18) on coyote patrol in Montana. Flying about 40 feet AGL, the passenger “inadvertently discharged” a semi-automatic 12-gauge shotgun. Not once, not twice, but three times, striking the right wing, fuel tank and aileron. I’m not sure how you “inadvertently” cycle the trigger three times. Must be one of those new Blast-O-Matic shotguns.  Fortunately, this one didn’t end as badly. So if you see someone packing heat and boarding your plane think of stupid pilot tricks. There are better ways to hunt. 

Update: To answer a question regarding the information source: From the book  “They Called it Pilot Error” by Cohn


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5 responses to “Stupid Pilot Tricks #1

  1. virgil xenophon

    Is this filed under Darwin Award nominations?

    • It’s filed under my own list of Darwin Award winners.
      The account is pieced together from information in NTSB reports and background in the investigation of the FBO that rented the aircraft as well as police reports.

  2. “Hold my beer and watch this!” never precedes anything good.

    • Planes require brains (just made that up. A small amount is needed, not that you need to be an Einstein).
      You can’t check ’em at the FBO counter when you’re PIC.

  3. Oh lord! I shouldn’t have laughed but I did.

    I’m a bit late, I know, but someone just linked this to me and it’s unbelievable.

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