The National EAA and our own Chapter 105 take aviation safety very seriously, especially as it pertains to the design, construction and flying of "experimental" aircraft. 

Recently the FAA has launched a study to investigate accidents within the experimental category.  Preliminary findings have shown that the safety record for experimental aircraft are significantly worse than that for "certified" aircraft.  One might have expected a little deviation, since it is after all "experimental."  Any significant deviation, however, is unacceptable, especially because most of those building and flying in the experimental category are not trying to put together their own design, but rather they are building tried and true designs from major kit manufacturers. 

What, then, is going on?  Why is the accident rate significantly higher?  Even though there is some debate about the statistical analyses done, and of the data used, the truth is that even if it was mistakenly off by half, it is still too high.  We need to address this issue head on, not make any excuses, and begin to make a significant impact in the opposite direction.  Thus this Safety page.

Chapter Safety Presentations



  • The topic was Mistakes in Aviation – "Switchology".

    Len Kaufman gives examples where mistakes with similar cockpit switches and knobs caused frightening results.

    Example:  One error occurred on an IFR flight soon after entering the clouds on departure. While turning toward a VOR the pilot reached down to turn off the fuel boost pump, but inadvertently turned off the adjacent avionics master switch (see photo) causing loss of radios and shut-down warning on the EFIS. He couldn't talk to ATC, couldn't navigate to the assigned VOR and was about to lose his primary flight display. He's in solid IMC. Not a good day so far. He initially thought he had complete electrical failure but then realized what he had done and corrected the switches. It was another minute or so before the navigation equipment booted up and became usable.

Example:  Two situations occurred in older Bonanzas where rows of similar knobs and switches line the bottom of the instrument panel. In one case, the pilot intended to pull the cowl flaps knob but mistakenly pulled the mixture control to idle cutoff. Sure enough, the engine quit and a dead stick landing was made in a field. The photo below shows cowl flaps knob pulled (open) just below the control wheel arm. Mixture knob is about three inches to the right and below. Although they have different shapes, both have similar push-to-release buttons and are located in the same area.test

Example:  In another Bonanza case, after landing the pilot intended to raise the flaps but raised the gear switch instead. Normally the squat switch (ground sensing) would prevent gear retraction on the ground, but in this case the switch was faulty and the gear retracted……….oops. There is a row of look-alike electrical switches on each side of the center console on the early Bonanzas. First switch to the left is Flaps, to the right is Gear. Easy mistake?

Example:  Another switchology example occurred in an Army OV-1 Mohawk after complete hydraulic failure. Without hydraulics, seven systems become inoperable and each has impact on landing, stopping and staying on the runway. Approaching the airport the pilot (most likely focused on the landing) reached down to pull the emergency gear extension lever. It's the yellow and black striped handle in the photo. What's that….you say there are two yellow and black striped handles? Yep, he pulled the wrong one and two 150 gallon fuel drop-tanks fell away into someone's back yard. Ouch!

So, what are the lessons here for each of us?

  1. Take a close look at the plane(s) you fly. Are there similar switches/levers/knobs that might be easily mistaken, especially when distracted and busy?
  2. Know your aircraft well. Be able to touch each switch/lever/knob with eyes closed.
  3. For builder, be thoughtful on placement of switches/levers/knobs. Keep those that are not typically used in flight away from those that are. You might consider protective covers over critical switches.
  4. If you move a switch or lever and something bad happens……undo what you just did.
  5. Be especially careful with unfamiliar aircraft – don't do anything quickly.

How the Brain Works

  • Here's a topic that I would think would be of interest to pilots, namely How to Know What We Don't Know! 

    Huh?  What?  Yeah, think about it.  In order to be absolutely safe, you would need to know more than you probably do, and sometimes you actually do know more than you think you do. 

  • John Jessen made up the following slide show that touches upon the latest brain research and his interpretation about how that might influence our reaction to inflight troubles.  He draws upon an experience he and his co-pilot had while flying in the Idaho high country, namely in the Sawtooths.  Click HERE