Sad reminder that training for a failure can be more dangerous than a real-world failure

The Pilatus PC-12 has a single engine and therefore in theory it is worth practicing what to do when the engine quits. Harrison Ford’s landing on a golf course shortly after taking off from Santa Monica is a good example of the value of proficiency. In practice, though, the PC-12’s engine is extremely unlikely to quit. This is a PT-6A turboprop (jet engine that spins a propeller), which is statistically far more reliable than piston engines or human pilots.

This investigation into the crash of an Air Force PC-12 shows that the training cure can be worse than the engine failure disease. Two Air Force pilots, presumably both more proficient than the average civilian pilot, wrecked a perfectly functional PC-12 while practicing getting back to the runway in the event of an engine failure shortly after takeoff. This is confusing because the PC-12 has a stick pusher to prevent pilots from aerodynamically stalling the plane. It is sad because FlightSafety has built Level D simulators in which this maneuver can be practiced without risk to any body part other than ego.

Fellow instructors and pilots: What do we take away from this?

5 Comments

  1. ernle

    September 23, 2017 @ 4:28 pm

  2. toucan sam

    September 23, 2017 @ 10:34 pm

    2

    Maybe the fact that the military has an unlimited budget and doesn’t mind bending a plane every once in a while.

  3. billg

    September 23, 2017 @ 10:57 pm

    3

    About 10 years ago a Microsoft exec and his instructor died practicing the same impossible turn in a PC12 too. It almost defies explanation that a CFI with any forethought could let this happen in a plane with a stick pusher. Why not at least climb to 6,000ft and pretend the deck is at 5,000ft AGL (allowing lots of margin for recovery) rather than trying it for real at just 1,000ft AGL?

  4. Jackie

    September 24, 2017 @ 4:55 pm

    4

    The Chernobyl disaster was also provoked during some sort of practice run. The lesson is that failure modes should be tested on simulators and not on real live equipment where botching the response means real live disaster. The other lesson is that some people have too much time on their hands and go looking for trouble. You should always make sure your employees have enough real work to do that they don’t get bored.

  5. Chris

    September 27, 2017 @ 11:59 am

    5

    billg:

    Strange connection for me reading this. I knew the instructor who died in the PC-12 crash in Big Timber. His name was Jason Barton went through Air Force pilot training in 2003. His photos and love of aviation live on at http://www.jasonbarton.net/ and http://www.jasonbarton.net/albums/?C=M;O=A

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