ASHLAND, Ore. – As state police investigate the Sunday morning plane crash at Chiloquin Airport, local pilots say safety is becoming a bigger concern as more and more people take to the skies.
Experts say cheaper planes and a recovering economy are creating a resurgence of flying in Southern Oregon.
And more pilots means more mistakes.
“I’d guestimate somewhere in the vicinity of 95-98% of the aircraft incidents or accidents are pilot caused,” said Bill Skillman, a veteran pilot and Commissioner at Ashland Airport.
Skillman says piloting isn’t like driving, you can’t just grab the keys and go.
“If you’re going go somewhere, you have to sit at the table and plan it,” said Skillman.
And those plans have to be precise – the weight of the passengers, heat, elevation, length of the runway. Most crashes, Skillman says, are caused by the pilot simply not fueling up properly.
But Chiloquin airport also has a unique problem.
“All that area up and down the East side of the Cascades is all 4,000 feet above sea level or greater,” said Skillman.
That means thinner air, which means less oxygen to the engine, less lift to the wings, and less bite to the propeller, especially when it’s hot.
Skillman says one skill every pilot should have is to know when it’s too dangerous to take off.
The good news is that most pilots who risk it go home anyway – just not always with their planes.
“Injuries are more common than fatalities,” said Skillman. “Thank goodness.”