CAP Loses Credibility in NTSB Findings on Alabama Crash


By National Transportation Safety Board

[Editor’s Note: A CAPTalk and AuxBeacon reader has called the membership’s attention to the fact that Civil Air Patrol has been exposed once again in another NTSB report assigning CAP pilot error as the cause of a recent crash. The CAP Mission Pilot was medicated to prevent heart attacks and failed to find the correct antidote to one or more of the five hazardous attitudes. The right seat CAP Mission Scanner was medicated with tranquilizers.]

On February 1, 2016, about 19:45 central standard time, a Cessna 182T, N784CP, was destroyed by a collision with trees, terrain and a post-crash fire following a missed approach to the Mobile Regional Airport (MOB), Mobile, Alabama.

According to CAP, both pilots were members of the Alabama Wing’s Mobile Composite Squadron. The airline transport pilot and pilot-rated passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was registered to and operated by the Civil Air Patrol as a personal flight under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91. Instrument meteorological conditions existed at the airport at the time of the accident, and the flight was operated on an instrument flight rules flight plan. The flight originated from Louisiana Regional Airport (L38), Gonzales, Louisiana, about 18:30.

The accident flight was the final leg of a 300-nautical mile (nm), three-leg “compassion flight;” the purpose of the flight was to transport a passenger from Florida to her home in Louisiana. The pilots departed BFM about 09:30 on the day of the accident and flew to Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP), Panama City Florida. While at ECP, the pilot contacted the flight release officer (FRO) to inform him that their departure would be delayed about 2 1/2 hours due to a problem with the airplane that was delivering the passenger to ECP. After the passenger arrived, the flight departed ECP for L38 about 15:00.

The FBO owner was concerned about the accident pilots flying at night given the potential for fog and offered them a courtesy car and assistance with obtaining accommodations for the night. The crew acknowledged his concern about the weather but wanted to return to BFM in time for their CAP meeting and before the fog set in. At 18:33, the flight which was operating under the call sign “CAP 184,” departed L38, contacted air traffic control (ATC), and was issued an instrument flight rules clearance to BFM.

The airplane was found about 1 nm mile west of MOB at 02:00 on February 2, 2016, after search personnel tracked the airplane’s emergency locator transmitter (ELT) to the accident site.

Spatial Disorientation

According to the FAA’s General Aviation Joint Steering Committee, a pilot’s sight, supported by other senses, allows a pilot to maintain orientation while flying. However, when visibility is restricted (i.e., no visual reference to the horizon or surface detected), the body’s supporting senses can conflict with what is seen. When this spatial disorientation occurs, sensory conflicts and optical illusions often make it difficult for a pilot to tell which way is up.

The FAA Airplane Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-3) described some hazards associated with flying when visual references, such as the ground or horizon, are obscured. “The vestibular sense (motion sensing by the inner ear) in particular tends to confuse the pilot. Because of inertia, the sensory areas of the inner ear cannot detect slight changes in the attitude of the airplane, nor can they accurately sense attitude changes that occur at a uniform rate over a period of time. On the other hand, false sensations are often generated; leading the pilot to believe the attitude of the airplane has changed when in fact, it has not. These false sensations result in the pilot experiencing spatial disorientation.”


The FAA publication Medical Facts for Pilots (AM-400-03/1), described several vestibular illusions associated with the operation of aircraft in low visibility conditions. Somatogravic illusions, those involving the utricle and saccule of the vestibular system, were generally placed into one of three categories, one of which was “the head-up illusion.” According to the text, the head-up illusion involves a forward linear acceleration, such as takeoff, where the pilot perceives that the nose of the aircraft is pitching up. The pilot’s response to this illusion would be to push the control yoke forward to pitch the nose of the aircraft down. “A night takeoff from a well-light airport into a totally dark sky (black hole) or a catapult takeoff from an aircraft carrier can also lead to this illusion and could result in a crash.”

FAA Advisory Circular AC 60-22, Aeronautical Decision Making, stated, “Pilots, particularly those with considerable experience, as a rule always try to complete a flight as planned, please passengers, meet schedules, and generally demonstrate that they have ‘the right stuff.'” One of the common behavioral traps identified was “Get-There-Itis.” The text stated, “Common among pilots, [get-there-itis] clouds the vision and impairs judgment by causing a fixation on the original goal or destination combined with a total disregard for any alternative course of action.”


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7 Comments on "CAP Loses Credibility in NTSB Findings on Alabama Crash"

  1. Avatar FAA Problems | July 13, 2018 at 11:57 | Reply

    FAA has some characters too. On 13 FEB 2018, a jury in U.S. District Court, District of New Hampshire, convicted William Pothier of Exeter, New Hampshire, for possession of child pornography. Pothier is an aviation safety inspector for the FAA.

    In JAN 2016, the Exeter Police Department received information that an IP address affiliated with a residence in Exeter was sharing child pornography using Shareaza, a peer-to-peer, file-sharing software. Further investigation by the New Hampshire Internet Crimes Against Children (NHICAC) Task Force led to Pothier. On March 30, 2016, members of the NHICAC Task Force executed a state search warrant at Pothier’s residence. A forensic examination of the laptop seized during the search discovered videos and thumbnail images of child pornography.

    DOT-OIG conducted this investigation with the FBI; NHICAC Task Force members from the Exeter, Portsmouth, and Hampton Police Departments; Strafford County Sheriff’s Office; and U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of New Hampshire.

  2. Avatar Clarksville | May 6, 2018 at 23:49 | Reply

    The Civil Air Patrol has crashed another one of their Cessna 182’s today.

    N5419E, a CAP Cessna 182 Skylane, crashed on landing at the Clarksville Regional Airport around 3:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon.

    The aircraft touched down, went through the perimeter fence and came to a rest on the shoulder of Outlaw Field Road, blocking a lane of traffic.

    Lt Colonel Wilson Polidura with the Civil Air Patrol was on the scene and said the aircraft was on an Air Force assigned training mission and a thunderstorm took control of the aircraft.

    Pilots are ultimately responsible for the conditions in which they choose to fly and land. All of the best pilots and instructors are leaving Civil Air Patrol because of the incompetence and corruption. Please get this story up on AuxBeacon so that it can be discussed.

  3. I’ve grown alarmed over the sloppiness and lack of safety compliance here in MDWG CAP [Ed: Maryland Wing Civil Air Patrol].

    In January of 2018, Col John M. Knowles, CAP MER CC and former commander of MDWG, highlighted the fact that there was another crash on DEC 16th, 2017. I don’t see it in your records and I think you should add it. This is what Knowles wrote:

    “In a separate incident on the same day, Capt. Steve Merritt of the North Carolina Wing was critically injured in a crash in North Carolina. Steve succumbed to his injuries on Monday morning. All three of these men were passionate aviators who shared their love of flying with thousands of CAP cadets over the years.

    Steve was quoted as saying ‘live life like flying a seaplane,’ he said, ‘no brakes, no reverse, full throttle, it’s gonna be great!’ All three of these officers lived that same creed…”

    For Knowles, a CAP Region Commander, to repeat Merritt’s irresponsible statement is evidence of what is killing the Civil Air Patrol. The membership is hemorrhaging and this puts funding at risk, but instead of fixing the corruption root cause, Civil Air Patrol commanders double down on recruiting with pick-up lines that sound thrilling to prospective cadets, but fly in the face of warnings and solution methods already established by the Federal Aviation Administration.

    “When we develop hazardous attitudes in flying, we are truly courting disaster. The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) literature defines five hazardous attitudes that can undermine a pilot’s aeronautical decision making. They are anti-authority, impulsive, invulnerability, macho, and resignation.”

    Who knows how many young minds that Merritt and Knowles and other clueless Civil Air Patrol members have compromised through words promoting unsafe aviation attitudes and practices.

    [Ed: Name and Grade Withheld on Request]

  4. Great idea… Joel Seidband and Richard Greenwood can do the honors.

  5. Our school district of [redacted] was considering forming a cadet group. A concerned educator referred us to your site. We have decided against it. The stories on this site are an eye opener. The cap is potentially a litigation hazard that we cannot risk.

  6. Avatar SkyHookinTail | March 10, 2018 at 20:26 | Reply

    Could you please do a story about Rep. Jackie Speier on the Military Personnel Subcommittee who recently called attention to the fact that “there have been 70,000 courts-martial in the Air Force… and not one general officer has ever been court-martialed.”

    The corruption in the Air Force and Civil Air Patrol is totally out of control with much whore mongering in play.

  7. The CAP is giving out Find ribbons like they are candy. It was difficult to get a Find ribbon in the old days when SAR was plentiful. It has become another meaningless award among many.

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