Fly Safe: Prevent Loss of Control Accidents

Monday, July 6, 2015

The FAA and general aviation (GA) groups’ #Fly Safe national safety campaign aims to educate the GA community on how to prevent Loss of Control (LOC) accidents this flying season.

What is Loss of Control (LOC)?

A Loss of Control (LOC) accident involves an unintended departure of an aircraft from controlled flight. LOC can happen because the aircraft enters a flight regime that is outside its normal flight envelope and may quickly develop into a stall or spin. It can introduce an element of surprise for the pilot. Contributing factors may include: poor judgment/aeronautical decision making, failure to recognize an aerodynamic stall or spin and execute corrective action, intentional regulatory non-compliance, low pilot time in aircraft make and model, lack of piloting ability, failure to maintain airspeed, failure to follow procedure, pilot inexperience and proficiency, or the use of over-the-counter drugs that impact pilot performance.

Did you know?

  • Approximately 450 people are killed each year in GA accidents.
  • Loss of Control is 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 LOC every four days.

Message from FAA Deputy Administrator Mike Whitaker:

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! Each month on we’re providing pilots with a Loss of Control solution developed by the team of experts. They have studied the data and developed solutions – some of which are already reducing risk. We 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.

Current topic: Managing Unexpected Events

What is an unexpected event?

Unexpected events – especially those occurring close to the ground – require rapid appropriate action. However, humans are subject to a “startle response” when faced with an unexpected emergency situation and may delay or initiate inappropriate action in response to an emergency.  Examples of situations which can catch a pilot by surprise:

  • partial or full loss of engine power after takeoff
  • landing gear fails to retract after takeoff, or fails to extend when ready to land
  • bird strike
  • control problems or failures

Did you know?

Fatal general aviation accidents often result from inappropriate responses to unexpected events.  Loss of aircraft control is a common factor in accidents that would have been survivable if control had been maintained throughout the emergency. In some cases, pilot skill and knowledge have not been developed to prepare for the emergency. In other cases, an initial inappropriate reaction begins a chain of events that leads to an accident.

Unexpected events often happen close to the ground or during a transition from one configuration or phase of flight to another. There may be no time to use a checklist. A pilot has a much better chance of success if he or she thinks about the abnormal event ahead of time. Practice and preparation can improve a pilot’s reaction time.

What can GA pilots do to best manage an unexpected event?

Don’t let an unexpected event become an unexpected emergency! Training and preparation can help pilots manage the startle response and effectively cope with an unexpected event.

Tips for pilots

  • Think about abnormal events ahead of time! Practice your plan! Brief your plan prior to takeoff, even when flying solo!
  • Have a Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI) join you to train and plan for emergencies
  • Review emergency procedures for your aircraft on a regular basis – don’t wait until you need a Flight Review
  • Sit in your aircraft or a properly equipped Aviation Training Device and practice abnormal and emergency procedures, touch the controls, and visualize your aircraft’s cockpit
  • Review and practice “what if” scenarios
  • Vocalize takeoff, approach, and landing expectations: aircraft configuration, airspeed, altitude and route emergency options
  • Sign up for the WINGS Pilot Proficiency program and have your hours with the CFI count toward a WINGS level 

Learn more 

AOPA’s Safety Spotlight on Aeronautical Decision Making includes two courses, several videos, and publications.

AOPA’s Safety Spotlight on Emergency Procedures features videos and online courses. 

The website has Notices, FAAST Blasts, online courses, webinars and more on key general aviation safety topics.

Check out the 2015 GA Safety Enhancements (SEs) fact sheets on the main FAA Safety Briefing website.

The November/December 2010 issue of the FAA Safety Briefing addresses how to handle abnormal and emergency situations. Articles include:

When the best made plans go away–tips on planning for abnormal and emergency situations

  • Between a rock and a hard spot – how to handle a partial-power takeoff
  • The right way back to right side up – learning to recover from upsets and extreme unusual attitudes
  • Survival 101 – tips on how to survive an aviation emergency
  • When the lights go out – what you should know about aircraft electrical systems

FAA Risk Management Handbook (FAA-H-8083-2) – Chapter Five.

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 Fly Safe campaign partners are: Air Bonanza Society (ABS) Air Safety Foundation, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA), Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), FAA Air Transportation Center for Excellence (COE) for General Aviation, FAASTeam, GA Joint Steering Committee, General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), Lancair Owners and Builders Organization (LOBO), 1800wxbrief/Lockheed Martin, National Air Transportation Association (NATA), National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI), National Business Aircraft Association (NBAA), Soaring Society of America (SSA), Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE), and the U.S. Parachute Association (USPA).