What Is Pilot Error?

Posted on April 2, 2020 in Aviation

Every year, airplanes and helicopters crash. More often than not, there is some element of  human error involved. In other words, preventable negligence. Piloting a plane is not an easy task. Even with modern technology and automated processes, pilots must do a lot to maintain proper inflight diligence and safely take-off and land. Unfortunately, some pilots make mistakes that jeopardize the safety of everyone on board.

How Often Do Pilot Errors Cause Aviation Accidents?

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the top two causes of fatal accidents are loss of control while inflight and controlled flight into terrain (CFIT). These are both pilot-related issues that are typically preventable with due care in the cockpit. Loss of control by the pilot inflight could make it impossible for the pilot to safely maintain flight or land the aircraft. Negligence could lead to tragedy, such as the aircraft striking the ground or crashing into the surrounding terrain.

Examples of Common Pilot Errors

Pilot error can refer to any type of human error the pilot makes before or during a flight. It is up to the pilot of an aircraft to abide by all applicable rules, regulations and industry best practices when flying a plane. A breach of any duty of care or a violation of aviation laws could lead to a serious disaster. Pilot error is the most frequent type of human error in aviation accidents.

  • Piloting a plane without adequate experience, training or licensure
  • Failing to check the weather before flying
  • Skipping pre-flight checklists
  • Failing to communicate with air traffic controllers
  • Ignoring commands from controllers
  • Using improper takeoff or landing procedures
  • Making poor piloting decisions inflight
  • Making navigation errors
  • Incorrectly using flight equipment or technology
  • Flying too low
  • Not accounting for sufficient fuel
  • Piloting a plane while drunk or intoxicated
  • Flying while fatigued

Pilot inexperience, negligence, lack of training or recklessness contribute to a deadly aviation disasters. It is critical for all pilots to take their duties seriously. Every pilot should do his or her best to meet applicable industry standards, obey federal and state regulations, pay attention to his or her surroundings, and fly the aircraft safely. Even minor mistakes inflight could lead to a catastrophe.

Other Human Errors Involved in Aviation Accidents

Pilots are not the only humans whose errors cause aviation accidents. Others in the aviation industry could also make mistakes that ultimately cause accidents, such as air traffic controllers, airline staff members, aircraft manufacturers, aircraft owners, maintenance crews and inflight crew members. If an air traffic controller misinterprets something, for example, he or she could mistakenly give one pilot clearance to take off directly in another plane’s flight path. Air controller mistakes contribute to disasters such as mid-air collisions.

Who Is Liable for a Pilot Error?

If an investigation of an aviation accident reveals that its cause was pilot error, a few different parties could take responsibility. The rules of vicarious liability means that if the pilot was flying the aircraft as an employee, the employer could be liable for the pilot’s errors. A commercial airline, for example, will be vicariously liable for the mistakes of its pilots and other staff members, in most cases. There might be an exception, however, if the pilot was operating as an independent contractor. In this case, victims might be able to hold the individual pilot liable instead.

A pilot’s private insurance company might have to pay for victims’ damages if the pilot was not working for an airline at the time of the accident. A person piloting his or her own private aircraft, for example, might be individually liable for a crash he or she caused. In other aviation accident claims, someone other than the pilot could be liable. The cause of the crash will determine the liable party. Defendants in aviation accident cases could include aircraft manufacturers, maintenance facilities, airlines and the government. Identifying the potentially responsible parties after an aviation accident often requires help from an experienced Phoenix aviation accident attorney.