The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the general aviation (GA) community’s national #FlySafe campaign helps educate GA pilots about safety, including loss of control (LOC), powerplant failure, and controlled flight into terrain (CFIT).
Stay safe! This series will show you how you can incorporate safety into every flight.
Keep Your Focus
Interruptions and distractions may be brief, but they can be deadly. They can cause you to lose focus, which could lead to catastrophic errors.
Interruptions and distractions break your train of thought, but at times can convey information that is critical for safe flight. The key is to learn how to safely manage the inflow of competing information.
Examples of interruptions/distractions include air traffic control (ATC) communications or alerts, head-down work, or having to deal with an unexpected situation. If not managed properly, distractions can set a deadly chain of events in motion.
Pilots are trained to manage several tasks concurrently, and for the most part, this is a skill pilots execute well. However, it’s important that you avoid becoming preoccupied with one task over all the others. Do you remember the December 1972 L-1011 crash, where the crew became so preoccupied with a landing gear light malfunction that they failed to notice that someone had erroneously turned off the autopilot? Similar events can happen to the GA pilot. Don’t let it happen to you!
Reduce the Risk
- Realize that you may have control over some interruptions and distractions, and not over others.
- Realize that the actions under your control, like head-down work, including standard operating procedures and checklists, should be conducted during periods of minimal disruption.
- Observe the FAA’s “sterile cockpit rule,” and make sure your passengers understand your need to focus at critical junctures of the flight.
- Keep communications clear and concise.
Responding to Abnormal Conditions
Because some interruptions and/or distractions may be subtle, the first priority is to recognize and identify them. Then, you will need to re-establish situational awareness. Identify what you were doing, and where you were in the process when you were distracted. Determine what action you need to take to get back on track.
Prioritization is key. Remember:
- Communicate, and
Be ready to postpone some lower-priority actions until you are in a position to safely address them.
More Tips on Dealing with Distraction:
- Recognize that conversation is a powerful distracter.
- Recognize that head-down tasks greatly reduce your ability to monitor the status of the aircraft.
- Schedule or reschedule activities to minimize conflicts, especially during critical phases of flight.
- When two tasks must be performed at the same time, avoid letting your attention linger too long on either task.
- Remember that your job as pilot in command is to fly the aircraft. That is your primary focus.
- Treat interruptions as red flags.
- Remember, “Interruptions Always Distract”
– Identify the interruption when it occurs.
– Ask, “What was I doing before I was interrupted?”
– Decide what action you will need to take to get back on track.
The Final Word …
Fly regularly with a flight instructor who will challenge you to review what you know, explore new horizons, and to always do your best.
Be sure to document your achievement in the Wings Proficiency Program. It’s a great way to stay on top of your game and keep your flight review current.
Did you know?
Loss of Control happens in all phases of flight. It can happen anywhere and at any time. There is an average of one fatal accident involving Loss of Control every four days.
Review this FAA Safety Team Fact Sheet on managing unexpected events.
The Flight Safety Foundation publishes a Tool Kit that can help you manage the deadly duo of interruptions and distractions.
ASA has also created a helpful checklist that will help you balance competing information.
AOPA has these tips on distraction management.
The FAA Safety Briefing has an article on strategies to help you overcome your startle response in the Sep/Oct 2019 issue.
Curious about FAA regulations (Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations)? It’s a good idea to stay on top of them. You can find current FAA regulations on this website.
The FAASafety.gov website has Notices, FAAST Blasts, online courses, webinars, and more on key general aviation safety topics.
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.