Staying Safe In The Wild Blue Yonder

By Scott Sarvay
By Jeff Neumeyer

June 30, 2011 Updated Jun 30, 2011 at 6:14 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - Air travel can get you places in a hurry, but small aircraft pilots need to know and respect the risks before they fly up, up and away.

Wise pilots, even ones who’ve flown hundreds of hours, realize they need to be honest about their own limitations and back off when it’s appropriate.

That’s advice Fort Wayne businessman Doug Hackbarth has lived by for years.

He has his own single engine Cessna, and has made over 1,500 landings in small planes.

But Hackbarth is not certified to use instruments on the control panel to guide him through storms or conditions like heavy fog.

He meticulously checks with a special weather service before each flight, to gauge whether conditions are safe to take off and fly.

In case he gets caught in bad weather, he uses a device you probably use navigating in your car or truck.

Doug Hackbarth/Small Aircraft Pilot: " For a guy like me, being a visual pilot, I do use a GPS, and it's a great help, a great guide for getting me around, but I still have to depend on my visual, I still have to be able to see the ground and see several miles ahead of me."

One of the real enemies of small aircraft pilots is a thunderstorm.

If at all possible, you should avoid thunderstorm cells by at least 20 miles, because of the turbulence, lightning and hail.

But low cloud ceilings and visibility also cause headaches for pilots.

A low ceiling was a major problem for Fort Wayne physician Steve Hatch in last Friday's deadly crash in Michigan, which killed Hatch, his wife Kim, and critically injured his son Austin.

The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to issue a preliminary report, which may pinpoint a cause of the crash, sometime in the next few days.

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