As Ron Wanttaja documents in his analysis of the experimental amateur-built (E-AB) safety record, loss of control is the probable cause for a huge
percentage of all accidents. But before concluding that better stick and
rudder skills will avoid these accidents, we need to think about a more
fundamental issue than simply improper control inputs by pilots.
THE ACCIDENT DATA THAT Ron analyzes is actually very far from complete because it
comes exclusively from NTSB reports. The NTSB creates a report on all aircraft accidents, but only those crashes that meet the board’s definition of an accident. In general,
the NTSB says an accident happened only if there is a serious injury or substantial damage to the aircraft. But—and this is a big but—the substantial damage does not include
landing gear, propellers, wingtips, flaps, and so on.
In other words, if you run off the runway, rip the landing gear off your airplane,
destroy the propeller, and probably damage the engine, you would believe that for all the
world you were in an accident. And anyone seeing you head off into the boonies would
also be certain they just witnessed an accident. The NTSB would almost certainly not
agree, and your wrecked airplane would not make it into the official accident statistics.
If you land a piston twin with the gear up, you could easily do $100,000 worth of
damage. The belly and wing skins must be repaired and the flaps replaced, and you must
pay for new propellers on both sides and engine teardowns and inspections for sudden