Follow-Up To Mid-Air...Any Thoughts...


Does It Really Matter....?
Staff member
Crashes during flight instruction increase
Curt Brown, Star Tribune

Published September 1, 2003 FLY01

As the recent deadly midair crash over Lake Elmo underscored, teaching people to fly can be a dangerous undertaking. Moreover, statistics suggest that flight instruction is becoming more dangerous. But advocates for the aviation industry insist that such tragedies remain extremely rare and receive an undo amount of media attention.

When painting the issue by numbers, here are some statistics to consider:

• Twenty-two percent of all flying time is attributed to instructional flight, according to the Air Safety Foundation, which studies accident trends.

• Instructional flying accidents rose nearly 14 percent through June compared with the first six months of 2002, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

• The amount of fatal pilot-related instructional accidents climbed from 6.9 percent to 9.7 percent in the Air Safety Foundation's most recent study of 2001 crashes.

• And the proportion of total accidents attributed to instructional flying increased from 13.1 percent to 14.5 percent in that latest study.

"Like all things statistical, it takes a relatively few numbers to swing the percentages when the raw numbers are not all that big," said Warren Morningstar, a spokesman for the Maryland-based Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the nation's largest civil aviation organization with 400,000 members.

Morningstar also points to the fact while 22 percent of all flights are instructional, only 14.5 percent of all accidents are attributed to instruction.

"Flight instruction has a much lower accident exposure than does general aviation as a whole," he said. "It's a very controlled environment in which to manage the risk. You can't say it's absolutely safe because nothing in life is when you put someone in a moving vehicle, be it a bicycle, automobile or airplane."

Latest crash

Shortly before 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 22, Amy Rogers and her husband, Todd Rogers, of St. Paul were flying northeast at an altitude of 1,500 feet out of Fleming Field in South St. Paul en route to a weekend on Lake Superior's North Shore. Victoria Callies, a flight instructor from Wings Inc., had just taken off with student pilot Jason Platz from the St. Paul Downtown Airport.

The two planes crashed over Country Air Golf Course in Lake Elmo, killing Amy and Todd Rogers and Callies. Platz, 23, of Minneapolis, survived.

Callies was the fourth instructor associated with Wings Inc. to die in an accident since 1990, according to Brian Addis, the owner of the flight school based at the St. Paul airport. An instructor and student died in 1990 while landing at the St. Paul airport when another plane struck it from behind. Two other instructors died in 1997 and 2000, but according to the NTSB database, those crashes were not considered instructional flights. One was listed as a business flight and the other as a personal flight, although the pilots carried instructor licenses.

All told, NTSB records show 40 instructional flying accidents in Minnesota during the past decade, including four accidents involving fatalities. (The NTSB database doesn't detail how many people died in a particular fatal crash.) According to the board's records, there have been 22 instructional flying accidents in Minnesota over the past five years, with five in 1999, three in 2000, four in 2001, five in 2002 and five so far this year.

Callies' death was the second fatal instructional flight this year, following a July 16 accident in Winsted that killed an instructor.

Pilots more vigilant

Dan Sherman, 22, of Scandia, has been a flight instructor for two years at Mayer Aviation, which operates out of the Lake Elmo Airport. He admits that lessons right after the Lake Elmo crash took on a different air.

"My students and I have spent a lot more time looking around and making sure we don't get lax," he said. "Something as tragic as that makes you much more aware. You're more glued to the radio and your eyes are wide open and vigilant."

He said he doesn't consider his job dangerous despite recent statistics that show an increase in instructional accidents.

"I have no worries whatsoever; those numbers increase all the time whether you're talking about motorcycles or cars or planes," Sherman said. "I definitely think the dangers are exaggerated."

Becky Widmark, 24, of Isanti, teaches fliers out of Anoka Aviation Services at the Blaine Airport and echoes Sherman's comments.

"I don't feel it's any more dangerous to get in an airplane than it is to get in a car, and the positives of flying, for me, far outweigh the negatives," Widmark said. "I'd rather fly an airplane than drive a car anywhere."

Dana Siewert, the director of aviation safety at the University of North Dakota's Aerospace Department, said airplane accidents are far more rare than car crashes and that's precisely why they receive more attention.

"When you're dealing with aircrafts, there are no specific roads like on the ground and when you have a problem you can't pull over and stop," Siewert said. "You can minimize the dangers, but there will always be a certain element of risk."

Staff librarian Roberta Hovde contributed to this article.

Curt Brown is at
At least that article shows both sides. I like the guys comment on bicycles.

If safety was the primary issue in our lives we would never leave the house.

Safety is my primary issue after Survival (of me and aviation).
LOL well his last name translates to "Lucifer"