The Sully story is reborn on the big screen and all pilots get to bask in the glory of this amazing aviation “save”. Please take pride in Sully’s success and  use this opportunity to promote “SAFE aviation” in all your social circles. But I wonder how any of us mortals would do with two engines out in an “Airbus Glider?” Sully dead sticks his plane successfully into the Hudson and all 155 lives are saved. You could not dream up a better professional piloting story!screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-5-05-57-pm

ntsb_colgan3407Unfortunately, less than a month later we suffered a tragic piloting failure with Colgin 3407. This new academy-trained Captain decelerated into a mushing, slow flight condition on final approach into Buffalo, NY. Tired and distracted, he not only ignored all stall indicators, but actually defeated the shaker/pusher stall protection system. All 49 on board and one person on the ground died horrible deaths as a result of his errors. This is not my analysis, it comes from the NTSB report. As pilots we are held to an incredibly high standard.


I can’t help but think this is a “teachable moment” for all pilots and motivation to try harder everyday. I present this story of contrasting pilot skills at Oshkosh and Sun ‘N Fun in just this manner with the question, “Who would you rather be?” Obviously we should all strive for excellence and professionalism and channel “the Sully” in our flying.

The unfortunate Colgan 3407 captain had taken the “flight academy short course” and had failed 5 evaluations on the way to his Colgan Captain slot. He was obviously not prepared to cope with the disaster he helped create. But viewed in a wider lens, someone in our flight training industry  had made promises and failed this unfortunate pilot. He never got the complete training and true skills he needed to be a safe pilot. These flight training loopholes should not exist if we value safety.

At SAFE we promote excellence in aviation education and no story could make the need for our resources and safety advocacy more obvious. Creating and sustaining superb aviation educators exponentially creates a safer aviation industry, one pilot at a time. This horrible accident resulted in new ATP requirements and stall training was modified in our advanced pilot testing standards. But this discussion continues, the need is still there, and the standards are still evolving. SAFE is again leading the change.


SAFE just sent our 6 page proposal for improving the controversial ACS slow flight maneuver to the FAA. This will go to committee on September 14th. We have numerous people on the AWS panel all passionately committed to creating a better testing document. We are all volunteer and encourage you to help. Join SAFE and support our safety advocacy and commitment to excellence in aviation education.

Please “follow” our SAFE blog to receive notification of new articles and also write us a comment if you see a problem or want to contribute an article. We always need more input on aviation excellence or flight safety. There are many highly qualified SAFE members out there! If you are not yet a member, please Join SAFE and support our mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits alone make this commitment worthwhile and fun.

About the author 

David St. George (Lifetime Member)

David St. George learned to fly at Flanders Valley Airport in 1970. Proving that everyone is eventually trainable, he became an FAA Gold Seal Flight Instructor for airplanes (single and multi, instrument, and glider) and serves the Rochester FSDO as an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner. In this capacity, he gives flight tests at any level from sport pilot to ATP and CFI. For 25 years David was East Hill Flying Club's 141 Chief Instructor and manager. David holds multi and single engine ATP pilot certificates, with pilot ratings for glider and seaplane and several jet type ratings. He recently earned his 13th renewal as a Master Instructor and owns an Aeronca Champ so he can build hours for that airline job!

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