Good risk management is more beneficial than the hope of a lottery gain
Recently, I literally fell off the PA-30 seat. All right this in itself would be quite an feat. figuratively speaking that was how I was struck to say the least.
Carbon monoxide poisoning
About 2 years ago, I wrote about carbon monoxide poisoning. Recently, I mentioned how I appreciated the AOPA podcast “There I was“. The very competent Richard McSpadden and his team interviews pilots from all the industry spectrum with the goal of explaining an incident or accident encounter.
McSpadden’s interviews are without equals in professionalism on all points. further, the courage required by the concerned pilots to relate their stories, sometimes tragic must be recognized as a huge safety enhancement contribution.
There exists no blame slinging only high standard and scientific analysis of facts. No doubts, good budgets allow such solid work. Nonetheless, AOPA understands that knowledge is free to share and greatly enhances the quest for safety.
So Episode #13 was at the origin of my unfortunate fall mentioned earlier. I can hear it from here: certain spirited minds, less inclined on scientific facts, will claim a “sign” in this number located between 12 and 14!
So then the case at hand is a pilot of a Mooney M21P that fell unconscious following carbon monoxide poisoning.
Book vs reality
Everyone knows that CO is not good for ones health. CO has dire consequences on a flight favourable outcome. The theoretical examination for the a licence will always challenge the applicant’s knowledge on effects of carbon monoxide. It is odourless: totally impossible to smell like a fuel leak for instance. It renders the victim incapable of reasoning, calculate or to handle flight controls. As a final touch, the victim falls unconscious prior to death. If that was not enough, a most insidious aspect is that small successive doses separated by shorts pauses of fresh air will have cumulative effects.
The concerned pilot’s competence in this episode is no way in question in the analysis. External and internal human factors mainly in play is what lead to the accident. The exhaust leak in the heating system was of course the source of the problem.
The pilot slowly passed out. The M21P was well trimmed for an enroute climb at 105 kt with the auto-pilot engaged in heading mode. The climb continued until fuel starvation 260 nm further and much higher than planned. A descent followed at 105 kt. Nothing like a well trimmed aircraft! The flight was completed with an evidently violent landing, a landing no less in a clear area in the woods nearby some small town.
The eventually came to with brisk winter air blowing through a pulverized windshield. He was a bit jammed inside but managed to extricate himself unharmed. He went on to search for help. Quite the lottery story like none other!
I never plan for a lottery win, my chances of gain are just as inexistent as anyone else. This lucky mooney pilot probably felt the same way. I personally prefer to deal with known risk management whenever possible. By possible I will take measure that sometimes require financial expenditures.
The use of a carbon monoxide detector is part of this strategy. As mentioned on the article I wrote, those triangles meant to detect CO fo a mere $6.95 simply do not cut it. They are underperforming in relation to human being health requirements. They merrily make us less vigilant by their presence. It is demonstrated by the time a pilot manages to distinguish those tell tale black dots, the pilot is already being poisoned. It is at this point that judgement has begun its downward spiral.
The electronic detector will capture a remarkable low level of CO. The stringent sound alarm is sufficient to wake up the dead. This good in itself since the goal is to avoid getting there in the first place.