The Killing Zone – How and Why Pilots Die

The Killing Zone – How and Why Pilots Die

This sounds like a terrible topic for a post on a site that deals with learning to fly – who’d want to fly after reading something that morbid, right?  But actually it is very empowering to study what goes wrong when accidents happen – knowing this information helps us manage risk by drilling down at the root causes that lead to most accidents. The book by this title, The Killing Zone – How and Why Pilots Die, analyzes statistics of general aviation aircraft accidents and tries to help us do just that – flag the most dangerous behavior and moment in a pilot’s flying career and make him treat flying with more respect when the complacency of perceived mastery kicks in. I first heard about this when getting my motorcycle license – there was research performed that looked at when most motorcycle accidents happened. The surprise there was that most accidents didn’t happen at the very beginning, when a rider had no experience to speak of. Most happened about six months down the road, when the rider began to get his confidence up and started getting cocky on the road. As the saying goes – there are old bikers, there are bold bikers, but there are no old, bold bikers. Same truth applies to flying – as Paul A. Craig analyzed accident data he discovered that there is a ‘killing zone’ in flying as well, and it is located right around 300 hours of flight experience.

Beverly Hills / CA / United States - 7/3/16

As you can see from the graph above,there is a definite peak with a drop-off above 350 hours. Part of the reason is that complacency sets in at about that point, as well as the lack of ongoing flight training that is typically behind low-hour pilots.  Now, as an 8-hour pilot myself I might be a bit inexperienced in this subject, but the argument in the book makes perfect sense. Breaking down the stats further, we see from the book’s data that pilots become more ‘safe’ as they continue to improve their skills by getting newer and more advanced ratings. The book makes a lot of sense and I found it very educational! I highly recommend you buy it from Amazon here and read it thoroughly.