October 19–The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the general aviation (GA) community’s national #FlySafe campaign is designed to educate GA pilots about the best practices to calculate and predict aircraft performance and to operate within established aircraft limitations.
Surviving a Crash
Every pilot needs to prepare for the unexpected. Although surviving a crash is one of those “I hope it never happens” events, it’s something you need to consider both for yourself, and your passengers. If something happens, your passengers will look to you for leadership and survival.
This edition of FlySafe offers a few important survival tips, but the FAA recommends supplementing this information with the appropriate training and preparation. A number of courses are available, including a one-day, post-crash survival course tailored for GA pilots offered by the FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI).
This course, and others like it, are designed to introduce you to the knowledge and skills you need to cope with various common survival scenarios. This course also teaches students how to assemble and use a personal survival kit.
We’re On the Ground…What Next?!
The unexpected happened, and you were forced to put your plane down. You survived!! Your passengers appear to be ok, too. Do you know what to do next?
A common acronym that can help is STOP. Stop. Think. Observe. Plan.
Stop: Your adrenaline is flowing. Once you and your passengers are safely away from the aircraft, try to calm down. Avoid panicking.
Think: Prioritize your next moves. First, are there any life-threatening injuries? What resources do you have for first aid? Can you signal for help?
Observe: You need shelter to survive, so start surveying your surroundings. Do you have food or water available? Can you start a fire? Do you know how much time there is before nightfall?
Plan: Conserve your energy. Focus all of your efforts on the common goal of survival and rescue. Plan for your immediate needs of first aid, sheltering from the elements, signaling for help and ensuring all in your party are safe. If possible, stay with or near the aircraft to improve your chances of being found.
Calm, thoughtful action is what will help you survive the time until rescue.
No matter where you fly, you should always equip your aircraft with a survival kit. There are several that are available commercially, but you can also assemble a personal survival kit that is custom-tailored to your mission.
Some common items you’ll want to make sure you have in your aircraft include: a multi-tool or knife, a flashlight with extra batteries, rope, a signaling device, a compass, first aid kit, waterproof matches, bug repellant, and gloves. Be sure to have some water and non-perishable food as well in case you might have to wait some time before being rescued. Carrying some of these items in a fishing or survival vest is a good idea, as you may only be able to walk away from the aircraft with the clothes on your back. And don’t forget to leave room in your vest for a 406 MHz personal locator beacon. These relatively low-cost devices are a great adjunct to the aircraft’s emergency locator transmitter.
Speaking of clothing, this is one area often overlooked when it comes to surviving an aircraft accident. As clothing is your primary shelter in a survival situation, plan your attire accordingly for all areas and weather conditions along your route of flight. Dressing in layers is always a good idea. That way you can adjust as conditions change. Consider cotton or wool outer garments rather than synthetics, trousers rather than shorts or skirts, and closed toe shoes rather than sandals.
If you are traveling over water, or traveling internationally, it’s a very good idea to have life rafts or life preservers on board. The FAA has no specific requirement for GA aircraft to carry these items, but ICAO requires them when traveling internationally.
Another critical tip for improving your chances for survival is to file a flight plan, even when flying VFR. This enables flight tracking and means that emergency services will be alerted should you not arrive at your destination when expected.
Finally, there is one item that tops every successful survivor’s list. It’s considered by experts to be the prime factor in determining whether one lives or dies. It weighs nothing and it’s always available. It is … the will to survive.
What is Loss of Control (LOC)?
A LOC accident involves an unintended departure of an aircraft from controlled flight. LOC can happen when the aircraft enters a flight regime that is outside its normal flight envelope and quickly develops into a stall or spin. It can introduce an element of surprise for the pilot.
Message from FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta:
The FAA and industry are working together to prevent Loss of Control accidents and save lives. You can help make a difference by joining our #Fly Safe campaign. Every month on FAA.gov, we provide pilots with Loss of Control solutions developed by a team of experts – some of which are already reducing risk. I hope you will join us in this effort and spread the word. Follow #FlySafe on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I know that we can reduce these accidents by working together as a community.
More about Loss of Control
Contributing factors may include:
- Poor judgment or aeronautical decision making
- Failure to recognize an aerodynamic stall or spin and execute corrective action
- Intentional failure to comply with regulations
- Failure to maintain airspeed
- Failure to follow procedure
- Pilot inexperience and proficiency
- Use of prohibited or over-the-counter drugs, illegal drugs, or alcohol
Did you know?
- In 2016, 413 people died in 219 general aviation accidents.
- Loss of Control was the number one cause of these accidents.
- Loss of Control happens in all phases of flight. It can happen anywhere and at any time.
- There is one fatal accident involving Loss of Control every four days.
The FAA’s space Medical Institute or CAMI, offers a one-day post-crash survival course for general aviation pilots and passengers. It’s designed to introduce you to the knowledge and skills you need to cope with various common survival scenarios. This course also teaches students how to assemble and use a personal survival kit. For more information, visit our Airman Education Programs page.
The FAA Safety Briefing magazine has published two issues on emergency preparedness. For specifics on GA accident survival, check out the articles “What Would MacGyver Do?” in the July/Aug 2013 issue and “Survival 101” in the Nov/Dec 2010 issue.
The FAASafety.gov website has Notices, FAAST Blasts, online courses, webinars and more on key general aviation safety topics, including aviation survival courses. They also host a number GA survival resources, including an Off-Airport Operations Guide here.
The WINGS Pilot Proficiency Program helps pilots build an educational curriculum suitable for their unique flight requirements. It is based on the premise that pilots who maintain currency and proficiency in the basics of flight will enjoy a safer and more stress-free flying experience.
The General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC) is comprised of government and industry experts who work together to use data to identify risk, pinpoint trends through root cause analysis, and develop safety strategies to reduce the risk of GA accidents. The GAJSC combines the expertise of many key decision makers in the FAA, several government agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and stakeholder groups. Industry participants include the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, National Business Aviation Association, National Air Transportation Association, National Association of Flight Instructors, Society of Aviation and Flight Educators, and the aviation insurance industry. The National Transportation Safety Board and the European Aviation Safety Agency participate as observers.
Read AOPA’s “Training for the Unthinkable” for a first-person account of survival.
AOPA’s “Steep Consequences, Life-Saving Tips” is another excellent read.