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on 25 February 2004
No matter what flying experience you have, you WILL learn from this book. It covers all the mistakes that every pilot can and could make using real examples and also highlights the dangers that the current commercial aviation recruitment system has created.
Initially the book seems a little on the morbid side (to the point of making aviation off-putting) but you soon realise that the author has used a very clever method to get the relevant points across.
Strangely the book also makes you realise why your instructor spent all that time making you revise those vital checks but also highlights areas that 'went in one ear' but didn't really sink in. It certainly made me go back and re-learn everything to a far greater degree and change the way I pilot.
The book is probably only suitable for pilots with 1 hour or more.
Also - at £15 you can't go wrong;
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on 16 March 2006
The format of the book is:
Each chapter covers a category of common mistakes (example booking a VFR flight which turns into IFR along the way). At the start of the chapter the author gives you the stastics of accidents in general aviation accidents for that category broken down by number of hours the pilot clocked up. This is to support his central theme that inexperience, and the consequential bad/reckless judgement that follows, kills.
He then goes on to give NTSB accident reports and then explains why those incidents should never have happened. Where necessary the author gives enough technical information for the reader to comprehend the point(s) he's trying to make. In some chapters he rounds off the chapter with reports from pilots who came close to tragedy but managed, at the last moment, to save themselves.
In my opponion the book does have 3 weaknesses:
1) The author is speaking from an American point of view so, whilst the general points have relevence in all countries, the legal/progression details are not totally applicable;
2) The much-vaunted self-assessment questionaire gives broad information on interpretation but leaves it mostly up to the reader to come up with recommendations; and
3) The book ends a little too quickly. Yes, there is a chapter on Airmanship, and a [very brief] chapter on dealing with the media, but the end of the book still feels abrupt.
As a guide to how not to fly it is invaluable. In fact I would say that it, or a book like it, should be compulsory reading for every student pilot. In fact I believe that a similar book should be done for learner drivers as well. However, that is not to say the book is without fault.
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on 6 October 2006
I bought this book on the strength of other reviews and I am not disappointed. Understandably all of the accident descriptions are from the USA but this does not detract from the message.

I have only recently started my JAR-PPL training and am keen to learn. My instructor, and the teaching manuals, have given me invaluable information about how to fly the plane. What this book adds, I think, is other information about the mistakes that pilots (both students and certified) continue to make.

A lot of the suggestions (such as not flying into bad weather) seemed very obvious to me but there were other sections that I found very useful and interesting.

The bottom line is that pilots apparently keep making the same common mistakes. This book will tell you what they are and hopefully prevent you from being one of the unfortunate statistics. I recommend this book.
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on 7 December 2008
The "Killing Zone" of the title is the period between 100 hours and 350 hours experience, in which the author argues pilots are particularly vulnerable. The statistics on which this assertion is based are unconvincing because they appear to fail to take into account the drop-out rate following completion of a PPL. However, accepting the premise that comparatively inexperienced pilots are expected to be vulnerable, the book is essential reading for all pilots in "the zone" and beyond, and those who teach and mentor them.

The book is full of salutary cautionary tales which are based mainly on case studies within the USA, some of which are hair-raising and I hope would not occur in the UK (or Canada) and certainly not within a flying club or school environment. Nonetheless, they are essential reading everywhere.

The bottom line is - don't get over-confident too soon after the PPL arrives through the letter-box. This undelines and complements a recent excellent article by Helen Krasner in Flight Training News, the bottom line of which was "try one new thing at a time only".

There is an interesting personality test at the end of the book according to which I shouldn't be flying aeroplanes, but the author does say it's not meant to be taken too seriously. However, it makes the point that if you're going to fly safely, some serious introspection does not come amiss from time to time.

This is one for every GA pilot's shelf. Having lent my copy out and not got it back I will certainly be buying another.
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on 1 December 2011
This book covers a fascinating subject but is delivered in an unbelievably dry manner, and is amazingly repetitive in places. For the point main of the title, that pilots with 50-350 hours are most at risk of an accident, it is an unnecessarily long book. It also ignores the evidence of many industries, though I do not know about aviation though I can not see why it should be any different, that the second group most likely to have an accident are the most experienced professionals (because they tend to do things subconsciously by instinct). I am a pilot and was interested in the contents of this book but I found myself jumping through whole sections which I rarely do when reading in general. It also has a very strong American tone to it, which does not detract from the technical stuff but does mean alot of the information is irrelevant to the European reader.
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on 3 September 2013
This author postulates the 'killing zone' - a period during which newly minted pilots are particularly vulnerable to making fatal misjudgements.

Whilst this 'killing zone' may or may not be real, the author fails to make a good case for it. For example, many student pilots take longer than the minimum hours to complete their pilot's licence, so the observation that risk climbs towards 100 hours may simply reflect the fact that this is when many pilots are 'let loose' for the first time.

Likewise, the book fails to comment on the fact that most pilots give up flying without having logged vast numbers of hours. Most 300 hour pilots will never reach 1000 hours, whether they kill themselves or not. Another factor is that many pilots in training are working towards a commercial license, and will fly for around 300 hours in small piston aircraft before moving up to safer commercial aircraft. The observation that 300 hour pilots have more accidents than 1000 hour pilots may simply reflect the fact that there are that many more of them.

In a book from an academic publisher at an academic price, you would hope that the author to have provided a more robust argument to support his thesis. The discussions of the most common types of accident and how to avoid them are relatively good. However, if you read accident reports and safety articles in the magazines there is likely to be little new here. I learned far more from 'That Worst Day' than I ever did from this flawed book.
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on 31 March 2005
What a book! Jam packed full of real life examples, fatal mistakes and risky practices that pilots can and do make. I learnt something new on every page and will now certainly go through my checklists with increased concentration.
The writer proves through factual events the precise reasons why the procedures pilots use today are in place - and also several areas for personal improvement.
A very eye-opening book, that i highly recommend for anybody with even a passing interest in aviation.
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on 3 February 2015
Unfortunately, Craig repeatedly commits a rather serious statistical error in this book. He uses accident frequency counts, rather than accident rates, as the statistical basis for his conclusions about the range of the "killing zone." Frequency counts are interesting, of course, but they don't account for the number of pilots at each range of flight hours (which accounts for most of the effect he claims). Therefore, they say little about the risk that you yourself face as your flight experience increases. My concern is the nature of that zone, and that we use the right methodologies to explore the issue. You'll have to forgive me for being geeky about this. It's just that it's part of what I do for a well-known agency having to do with aviation (which can't be named, because I'm speaking here as a private citizen).
Statistically, rates aren't interchangeable with frequencies. Rates subtract the effect of how many individuals are present in each "bin" of a frequency distribution (in this case, the y-axis, where the x-axis would be flight hours). In fact, it appears that about 70% of the "zone" may be an artifact, and can be explained just by the fact that the frequency distribution of NON-accident pilots looks nearly identical to the distribution of accident pilots. See my paper regarding this.

Bottom line: The kind of analysis we use on data like these is very tricky. That's all I'm saying.
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on 28 December 2012
Came across this entirely by chance just as I was reaching the end of my PPL training at Stapleford in Essex. While the title is a bit melodramatic to say the least, I found this to be a useful revision of the basics of private pilot flying. While on first glance it seems like a bit of a re-run of the PPL ground school with a bit of practical knowledge thrown in: chapters on bad weather, instrumentation malfunctions, landing and take-off distances, mass and balance, accelerated stalls while manoeuvring, fuel system problems, human performance issues etc. But the reality is that these are some quite essential elements that take private pilot flying into reality. I mean, for example any cursory read of some of the AAIB reports these days sometimes does seem a bit like PPL revision (or a serious lack thereof among a lot of pilots!). The fact is that accidents are most common among those who have become a bit cocky a few dozen hours after PPL qualification. So if you're just reaching your PPL Skills Test or are just in possession of a shiny new EASA PPL, this book is for you. As my instructor often says: "learn from other people's mistakes before you make them yourself."
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on 20 November 2013
I loved the structured, rational writing style of this book. The author categorises the main causes of fatal accidents very clearly, and provides dozens of case histories taken from the official (US) reports to illustrate each category. I would expect any pilot with a current license to know everything that's in this book, to minimise the odds of ending up in an accident. I'll be re-reading my copy again in the future, to ensure the book's gold-plated advice doesn't fade from memory.
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