Other Aviation Syndromes 1.: The Pioneer Syndrome

Earlier I have presented the 3 career based syndromes, i.e.: Beginners, Intermediate and Advanced syndromes. However there are other syndromes which need to be highlighted. The first syndrome is the Pioneer Syndrome, which  is connected to the Beginners Syndrome. The first known Pioneer Syndrome in aviation history is probably Otto Lilienthal´s tragic accident. He was the pioneer of heavier than air flights, which he did from natural hills and from an artificial hill which he built near Berlin. He made over 2000 glider flights between 1091 and 1896, with a total flying time of 5 hours. See the video on the front page.

His last flight ended with a loss of control and the glider plunged to the ground. The reason this happened could have been a gust combined with limited maneuverability. Lilienthal was severely injured and died 36 hours after the crash. His famous last words was «Sacrifices must be made!».  Lilienthal´s contribution to aviation is recognized even today.

Wilbur Wright one of the The Wright brothers claimed that Lilienthal was the most important of the flying pioneers of the 19th century. His accident was the typical pioneer syndrome which occurs because of the experimental nature of being a pioneer, one does not have enough knowledge and the consequence of experimenting with the unknown in aviation was proven to be extremely dangerous. That is a lesson which should have been learned by now. However similar accidents happens even today, when the knowledge of how to perform safe flights is here. I wish we could honor Lilienthal´s gift to aviation by sacrificing his life in the quest of making flight possible for mankind. That is best honored by flying safe.

I always make this point in my safety speeches in aviation classes and seminars, and I urge everyone to learn from others and own mishaps and mistakes by saying that our safety slogan should be: «We are only doing new mistakes». If we could succeed in that, there would hardly be any accidents if any at all, as all the mistakes probably already are done. The mystery is hence why do we keep repeating them?

Capt. Stein Arne Fossum

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