By Christine Kim
April 2, 2011
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The Federal Aviation Administration says there were fewer accidents last year in Alaska, but more fatalities. According to the F.A.A., 85 percent of general aviation accidents result from pilot error.
At the Loussac Assembly Chambers, aviators attended Saturday’s all day safety seminar to learn from last year’s mistakes.
One pilot, Dave Akers, had a story to tell. On July 22, 2010, Akers and his passenger headed into the Friday Canyon, near the Knik area, instead of heading back home as planned. It was a decision that resulted in a plane crash. The two were badly injured, and months later, Akers says he “felt it important to step forward and share the experience.”
His accident was one of 95 in Alaska last year. The F.A.A. says 11 of those were fatal, taking the lives of 16 people. The F.A.A. safety seminar reflects on last year’s accidents, emphasizing how a positive flight attitude, pre-flight inspections and having an updated E.L.T. are essential.
“There’s just a tendency to think that’s not going to happen to me, and some people get in their airplane they don’t have their safety equipment with them,” said F.A.A. Regional Administrator Bob Lewis.
The agency says those spending time in the sky will make mistakes, but the emphasis is on reducing risks and being prepared with a flight plan and survival kit.
“The same sort of error could lead to disaster if we allow it to go that far, so we have to be aware of how we make errors,” said John Steuernagle from the F.A.A. safety team.
Akers says in his case, a big contributing factor to the accident was a silent one: Personal stress. He says that prevented him from making good decisions. It’s a lesson he wants to share in hopes that others will learn from his mistakes.
“I’m lucky to be the one to be here to talk about it,” he said. “The decisions everyone is talking here today is about making good decisions and sticking with them.”
The agency is sponsoring a safety concern hotline. If you see or suspect anything unsafe, you’re encouraged to call 1-800-478-7233.