A Summertime Rhyme to Keep You Safe While You Plan Your Vacation Destination

Are you planning to fly your club airplane to your vacation destination this summer? General aviation is the most fun way to travel, just be sure to avoid common pitfalls and mistakes so you arrive safely. The Air Safety Institute has produced a pilot safety announcement video entitled Vacation that highlights some common issues pilots face when flying during vacation trips.

The video is a timely resource for your next flying club meeting. The following are some accident examples to get the conversation started (find others in the Air Safety Institute’s online accident database).

Sometimes the pressure to complete a flight leads to poor decision making. In the “too eager to go” category, the pilot of a Mooney attempted to take off from Angel Fire, NM (KAXX) in a direct crosswind of 33 knots gusting to 47. The aircraft crashed just beyond the departure end of the runway, and the pilot and all three passengers were fatally injured. According to the accident report, the pilot had not flown out of that airport previously, had never flown at an airport with such a high elevation (8,380 feet), and had limited experience flying in mountainous areas.

Vacation flights are also ripe for weight and balance issues. There are often passengers involved, and of course we all have baggage. A detailed weight and balance calculation is an important part of your preflight. Having to leave a suitcase or three behind is better than the alternative. The following is an admittedly extreme example, but it illustrates the point: a Cessna 180 was loaded 287 pounds over maximum gross with a passenger (a heavy equipment mechanic) and items including “six 5-gallon (plastic) fuel containers of diesel fuel, a 150 pound iron stove, the mechanic's tools, several bags of groceries, and a large cooler/ice chest.” 

Lastly, a flight to South Dakota for a hunting trip resulted in three fatalities when the pilot took off on a five-hour flight in a Cherokee 180 with three hours’ worth of fuel and did not make it to his planned fuel stop. Instead of stopping at one of the several other airports he flew over, the aircraft crashed three miles short of the airport he was planning to stop at for fuel. The pilot made a forced landing in a corn field, but all three on board were killed when the nose gear hit a furrow, flipping the airplane.

ASI’s one-minute Vacation video is ideal to share with your flying club members. It’s short, entertaining, and is packed with good advice. As the video states –

“So before you set out on an airborne migration

Be proficient, prepared, have the best information.”

Safe pilots are always learning, and the Air Safety Institute’s goal is to ensure pilots have a wealth of information to keep flying safely. Our educational programs are funded through donations from pilots dedicated to forwarding that mission. Show your support by donating to the AOPA Foundation today (

Topics: Training and Safety, Public Benefit Flying, Aviation Industry

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