Mike Patey's Three Strike Policy - Image

Mike Patey‘s Three Strikes Policy

A Sport Metaphor May Save Your Life.

I recently watched one of Mike Patey’s videos titled “I’ve Lost 4 Friends in 60 Days – Aviation Safety Discussion”. In that particular video, Mike talks about aviation safety on the stage of an event hosted by Hangar 107 in Spanish Fork, Utah. He recently lost four good friends and shares insights and his thought process about aviation safety. In his talk, Mike mentioned a Three Strikes Policy, which particularly resonated with me. I’ve immediately adopted it for my own thoughts and decision-making process to become a safer pilot and potentially save my life. Before we dive right into Mike Patey’s Three Strikes Policy, I’d like to briefly outline who Mike Patey is and why we should pay attention to him.

Who Is Mike Patey

Mike – and his twin brother Mark – are businessmen who have built several successful businesses like Best Aviation Products. In addition, the brothers are heavily involved in aviation and have built highly modified, record-winning aircraft. In particular, Mike has built more than a dozen unique and highly capable aircraft like Turbulence (a Lancair Legacy) and Draco (a PZL-104 Wilga) – both turboprop-powered experimental aircraft. So, obviously, both have figured out how to build and operate businesses and aircraft.

A testament to Mike’s knowledge and capabilities is his successful execution of a dead-stick landing from several thousand feet, partially through instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), on the way to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2023. He kept his calm and safely landed Turbulence in Rochester, Minnesota when his Pratt & Whitney turboprop failed on him and exploded in flight. In the previously mentioned talk, Mike mentioned that, in hindsight, the Three Strikes Policy potentially saved his life on this occasion.

For those of you who don’t know Mike or Mark Patey yet, I highly recommend checking them out. I have not met them yet, but from what I have seen, they are both really nice guys who share their knowledge and insights, and they give back to their communities – or how else would you call it when someone uses their very own helicopter free of charge for search and rescue missions! I can’t say enough good things about both of them, and I hope to meet them face-to-face soon – maybe this year at Oshkosh!

Mike Patey‘s Three Strikes Policy

So, what is Mike Patey‘s Three Strikes Policy that potentially saved his life? It’s a simple sports metaphor from baseball: Three strikes and you’re out. Mike explains that as he gets older – and probably more knowledgeable and mature – he becomes more risk-averse. A policy he and his brother adhere to these days is the Three Strikes Policy. He further details that anything can be a strike – any condition like failed instruments, nighttime, IMC, pilot fatigue, … you name it!

The interesting thing is that Mike should have flown Turbulence to Oshkosh the day before the incident occurred. One of the reasons why he opted not to fly the day before was because it would have been at night (strike one), there would have been some weather – IMC conditions – (strike two), and he was a bit tired that day (strike three). He opted to cancel the flight and to fly during the day, probably more rested, the next day instead. He still had to fly the dead-stick landing partially in IMC, but at least it was daylight and he did not have to look for the airfield at night. In Mike’s words: Maybe he would have made it that night, but maybe he wouldn’t.

Swiss Cheese Model vs. Three Strikes

Most of us have heard about the Swiss cheese model of accident causation that is used in risk analysis and risk management – at least during pilot training. It is a good model to outline the causal chain to explain an accident, but in my mind, it’s a bit abstract/complex. The Three Strikes Policy is a much simpler and – most of all – applicable sub-model of the Swiss cheese model. Obviously, the three-strikes model does not take into account if the “abnormalities” line up and would eventually cause an accident, but that is okay as it is more conservative. I am happy to call off a flight based on this model – particularly when we are flying non-commercially (PART NCO/91) and do not have guidelines laid out in our organisation’s standard operating procedures (SOP).

We often fail to see the big picture because we are busy and/or need to accomplish some task, etc. None of the strike reasons are – or need to be – out of the ordinary to be a strike, but all of them might compound to become a problem. It’s clearly legal to fly with certain instruments inoperative/unserviceable, and nobody – except yourself – can stop you when you are a bit tired or inattentive, but a combination of certain conditions might lead to an unasked-for outcome. Mike Patey’s Three Strikes Policy is a simple, applicable model that can save your life, or at least your day!


Mike Patey’s Three Strikes Policy is a simple yet powerful model to assess and mitigate risks. It doesn’t take into account if abnormalities could line up to cause an incident, but its simplicity and applicability make it easy to make quick, conservative decisions.

Mike and Mark Patey are well-known figures in the aviation community – particularly in the Midwest US. I tip my hat to them not only for what they have accomplished but more importantly for their humble attitude towards aviation and safety! I am looking forward to seeing their new projects – a couple of which are already in the making – and wish them all the best for the future. Kudos to Mike and Mark!

About Quest Aeronautics

Quest Aeronautics is a state-certified engineering office for aviation, dedicated to shaping the future of general aviation by providing innovative and cost-effective solutions to enhance aircraft performance and operations. With a focus on CS/FAR-23 and experimental/amateur-built (E/A-B) aircraft, Quest Aeronautics provides a range of services including flight testing, aircraft operations and maintenance consulting, high-quality aviation products, and tailored support for E/A-B projects. Collaborating with industry-leading partners, Quest Aeronautics is committed to delivering unparalleled support and expertise to individuals and organisations in the general aviation market.

About Author

Sebastian, the founder of Quest Aeronautics, is a driven and enthusiastic individual with a passion for aviation. Before delving into aviation, he gained valuable experience as a chemical process engineer and laboratory technician. Sebastian holds a Master of Science in Engineering and a commercial pilot licence, with several fixed-wing aircraft ratings under his belt. He has also completed an introduction course for fixed-wing performance and flying qualities flight testing at the National Test Pilot School in Mojave, CA and is compliance verification engineer for flight.