Monday, April 27, 2015

No formal tracking of pilot crashes found among authorities

WFSB 3 Connecticut


There have been high profile plane crashes that have made headlines in the last two years.

The Eyewitness News I-Team started looking into general aviation pilots who had crashed more than once in their flying career.

There were dozens of repeat offenders found during the investigation into pilots who fly Cessnas, Pipers and sometimes even bigger planes.

In November, Dan Hall of Torrington, was flying his Cessna when his engine stalled.

He said, in a previous interview with Eyewitness News, he knew he was headed down, and made one last call to air traffic control.

"I said, 'Tell my kids I love them if I don't make it.' He said, 'OK. Good luck',” Hall said.

Whether it was luck or skill, Hall managed to set his Cessna down on the completed, but still not used, Hartford to New Britain Busway.

"I'm a little sore, my back, but other than that it feels really good to survive," Hall said.

The November crash wasn't Hall's first.

In 2008, an engine failure two miles from Westerly Airport brought down another Cessna with Hall at the controls.

Two crashes, and both times Hall survived.

Another pilot's 2013 crash in East Haven had a much worse outcome.

Joann Mitchell, of East Haven, lost her two daughters in that crash.

"I'm thinking 'it just went over the top of the house, let me go check on the girls, make sure they're OK. I know Sade is freaking out'," Mitchell said in a previous interview with Eyewitness News. "When I opened up her bedroom door, there was a plane in the middle of her room."

Also killed in that crash was pilot Bill Henningsgaard and his 17-year-old son who was on the plane.

Like Hall, the incident was Henningsgaard's second crash.

Four years earlier, the former Microsoft executive crashed into the Columbia River in Washington State, and he and his mother survived.

The Eyewitness News I-Team started digging to see how many pilots have crashed more than once.

The National Transportation Safety Board in Washington and the Federal Aviation Association said they don't track crashes by pilots' names.

Public information officers at the two agencies charged with regulating pilots and investigating crashes both said they look at individual crashes but don't track crashes per pilot.

It doesn't matter if it is the first, second or tenth crash; they don't know.

The I-Team dug through hundreds of incident reports looking for the name of the pilot involved in each incident, in Connecticut, between 1982 and 2014.

There were seven pilots who appeared on the list twice or more, and 18 reports where the only operator listed was a company name, but some of those companies made the list as many as seven times.

The government agencies that the I-Team reached out to said they don't track crashes by pilot names.

While the government is not tracking those statistics, a safety expert said it may not be as bad as someone might think.

Dr. Michael Teiger, a West Hartford pulmonologist, is an FAA-certified aviation medical examiner.

He has been a general aviation pilot for 28 years and performs dozens of required physicals every year.

He said even if the names aren't entered into a database, every incident triggers an investigation and that investigation will look into any prior crashes for that pilot to see if it is just bad luck, or a pattern, or something worse.

“Once somebody is identified as an offender, your one, two, three-time accidents, then that raises the flags, and I think the process is in place to investigate,” Teiger said. “I've seen that happen.”

What could happen is more training or even a “check ride” where a government official actually flies along to make sure a pilot is competent to fly.

“So I am comfortable with the process, but I think it's almost impossible to police everybody and make sure they make the right decisions all the time,” Teiger said.

The I-Team reached out to many of the pilots on the list, but none wanted to talk on camera.

Hall, who crash-landed on the Busway, said he is expecting an FAA check ride in the next couple of weeks.

He has been grounded since the November crash.

He called his two crashes just “freak bad luck” and he is hopeful that they will give him the approval to get back in the air.

Original article can be found here: