One of my favourite columns in an American Flying magazine is I LEARNED ABOUT FLYING FROM THAT and another column in the same magazine called AFTERMATH. Even the Jim Davis column ACCIDENT REPORT in our local SA Flyer magazine is my first 'must read' when I buy a new magazine. On top of that, I own a huge collection books on aircraft accident analysis and even bought my own copy of the printed official accident report of the HELDERBERG disaster... from the old DCA in Proes street..now I am giving my age away.
My fascination with aircraft accidents is not unique and is shared by many (not all) my aviation colleagues. So what is behind this somewhat dark (and some would say macabre) fascination that we share in the misfortune of others? Is it the same 'rubber-necking' instinct shown by drivers on the road when they come upon an accident site? I cannot speak for others but in my case it is definitely something else - let me try and explain...
I have been flying for almost 40 years and I am still of the opinion that flying is a very unforgiving environment, with potential misfortune lurking around every corner. I can recite a list of names of friends and acquaintances that I have lost to this wonderful hobby of mine over the years…and I cannot say the same about friend lost in car accidents but maybe it’s because the latter is more ‘forgettable’?
Every time an aircraft accident occurs, and after reading some of the circumstantial and factual feedback regarding the events preceding such an accident, my first reactions is ‘..There but by the grace of God go I’ as many of the holes in the cheese have been faced by me but with a better outcome… I am still here writing this blog. I the 40 years of flying, including microlights and NTCA’s, I have never had an accident of even a really scary incident. Somehow I was able to spot the holes in the cheese before they all became aligned.
Is my good fortune attributable to luck? Probably a good dose of it but I would like to think that I managed to fill my bucket of experience faster than my bucket of luck ran out due to my keen interests in learning from mistakes… most of them not my own, but those of others through the literature and column mentioned above.
Bottom line… you do not have to make the mistakes yourself to learn from them – in fact, preferably not.