Sen. Schumer’s Press Release should be considered for the Henny Penny Award

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Schumer Demands NTSB Investigation into Small Plane Crashes

Unnecessary & Uninformed



The above 40 words constitute a lengthy title to a press release issued by the office of Senator Schumer (D. NY). The verbosity of the HEADLINE reveals that it presumes that something is foul in NY State’s aviation environment. The assumption is not supported by the record.

This is, however, not the first time that the Senate Minority leader has espoused this theory; six months ago his headline was Schumer Urges FAA to Increase Long Island Airport Inspections.

That allegation precipitated several negative commentaries including this articulate, analytical reply from the head of the AOPA Safety Institute. Mr. Landsberg concluded after an accident-by-accident assessment:

In my view, the real opportunity is ongoing and proper education since it’s the pilot and passengers who arrive none-too-gently at the scene of the accident first. It’s also the rest of us who pay increased insurance, and there is litigation and bad PR.  Perhaps a ramp “check” isn’t the best tool but merely a courtesy “discussion” by inspectors since the FAA is moving into compliance, as opposed to enforcement these days. If someone is a consistently bad actor, then enforcement is completely appropriate.

Newsday published an article entitled General aviation accidents nationwide, and here is its graphic:

general aviation accidents nationwide

Credit is due to someone on the Senator’s staff who researched all of the accidents which occurred in NYS:

Last month saw two New York-area crashes occur in the span of a week:

  • February 19, 2017- a single-engine Piper PA-28 took off from Republic Airport and crashed into a residential area of Bayonne, N.J. Only the pilot suffered minor injuries, but the plane crashed in a neighborhood and nearly hit a home.
  • February 26, 2017- a Nation F. being used for practice at the Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton Beach crashed feet away from the runway causing two fatalities and leaving one passenger with minor injuries.

And in 2016, at least 18 crashes occurred in New York:

  • February 12- a Cessna 152 taking off from Long Island MacArthur Airport caught fire after landing at Calabro Airport in Shirley. The NTSB has determined the probable cause to be the pilot’s failure to maintain adequate terrain clearance while landing, resulting in a collision with a snow berm, nose gear collapse and post impact fire.
  • February 20- a Piper Archer flying from Fitchburg Municipal Airport in Massachusetts crashed into Setauket Harbor; one passenger was tragically killed.
  • March 5- a Cirrus SF22 flying from Rhode Island crash landed in Hauppauge industrial park.
  • March 11- a Cessna 152 flying from Republic Airport made an emergency landing on a Kings Park beach.
  • April 10- a Piper Cherokee flying from the Bayport Aerodrome crashed and caught fire on a Bayport residential street. The pilot and passenger were injured.
  • April 18- a Cessna 172C, N1863Y collided with trees and terrain during takeoff from Westmoreland, New York. The private pilot and one passenger were fatally injured and one passenger sustained minor injuries.
  • April 30- a 1947 Stinson made an emergency landing in Riverhead. No injuries were reported.
  • May 3- a  Beechcraft V35B Bonanza flying from North Myrtle Beach to Connecticut broke up midair and crashed in Syosset; all three passengers on board were tragically killed.
  • May 19- a Piper PA-28-180, N7781W, experienced a loss of control during a touch and go landing and collided with airport signage at Genesee County Airport. The pilot was not injured.
  • May 27- The pilot was killed when a World War II-era single-seat P-47 Thunderbolt fighter plane crashed into the Hudson River during a promotional flight for the American Airpower Museum.
  • June 20- A twin-engine plane was badly damaged when it crash-landed at Republic Airport. The pilot, who said the plane’s landing gear and a warning system failed, and a second occupant were not injured. The aircraft was owned by Ponderosa Air.
  • July 2- a Fleet 16B biplane, N666J, was damaged during landing at Old Rhinebeck Airport. The pilot and passenger were not injured.
  • July 16- a Piper PA-28R-201, N2241Q, was destroyed by collision with terrain and a post-crash fire after takeoff from Hogan Airport. The pilot was seriously injured and three passengers were fatally injured.
  • August 8- a Cessna 177, N30923 was destroyed when it impacted trees and terrain while maneuvering near McDonough, New York. The pilot and three passengers incurred minor injuries.
  • August 20- an experimental, amateur built Kitfox 4-1200, N51TM, was substantially damaged while landing at Canandaigua Airport. The pilot was not injured.
  • September 25- a Cessna 120, N3580V and a Piper PA-28-140, N612FL, collided in midair while flying over North Collins, New York. The Cessna was destroyed and the pilot was fatally injured. The Piper was destroyed and the pilot and its passenger were fatally injured.
  • October 31- a Cessna TR192, N4657S was substantially damaged when the main landing gear collapsed while landing at Watertown International Airport. The pilot was not injured.
  • November 11- Two men were rescued from frigid waters off Shoreham when their single-engine aircraft crashed into the Long Island Sound. The men swam from the plane to a large boulder, which they clung to until rescuers arrived.

Unfortunately, the staffer did not attempt to determine whether there are any accident factors which suggest that there is some trend in the Empire State’s GA community.

In order to call for a NTSB focus investigation, the Senator’s staff should have offered statistical analysis finding that a series of random accidents, which occurred in a finite geographical area, correlates with a conclusion that there is any reason to believe that the problem(s) exists with the pilots, planes or airports in the State. For example, one of the accidents just flew over LI on the way to another destination. While the probable causes have not been found, superficial analysis suggests that a mechanical problem was involved in one case and pilot error in another. No such support was proffered.

The national trend in GA safety, published by the FAA, shows a 33% decrease in accidents and 55% decrease in the accident rate over the past 15 years. While any accident is unacceptable, the fact that the Senator’s constituents witnessed 18 crashes in 2016 is not higher than what might have been forecasted. His clamoring for an investigation was uncalled for.

The Senator sent a letter to NTSB Chairman Hart requesting that the Board undertake a comprehensive safety review of the recent string of small plane accidents on Long Island and across the country in order to help develop recommendations that could prevent future incidents.

Perhaps, the Senator is unaware

  • that the NTSB is very busy with accidents which pose significant,
  • that it has made ALREADY studied GA nationwide and has ALREADY made specific recommendations about improving GA safety (Most Wanted Lists 2014-2016),
  • that FAA and industry are working together to use data to identify risk, pinpoint trends through root cause analysis, and develop safety strategies–the Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS) program identifies risks before they become accidents. If the NYS list was significant statistically, ASIAS would already be examining it.

Rather than send the NTSB off on an unnecessary investigation, perhaps the Senator’s office ought to spend some time learning what the FAA is doing in all 50 states to lower GA risk.

Senator Proxmire famously published an annual “Golden Fleece” Award for what he considered to be inappropriate government spending. Senator Schumer is on the “Watch List” for the 2017 Henny Penny Award.

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