Fly Safe: Prevent Loss of Control Accidents

Friday, June 23, 2017

June 23- 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.

What is Loss of Control (LOC)?
An 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.

Expect the Unexpected
Fatal aviation accidents often result from a pilot’s inappropriate response to an unexpected event. Some pilots may experience a “startle response” when faced with an unexpected situation or  freeze or panic during an emergency. These events can quickly create a situation that is stressful, challenging, and even life-threatening, especially during flight.

Any unexpected inflight event requires fast, accurate action. Your best insurance is to have a plan. Solid training, regular practice, and your discipline to strive for perfection on every flight will help you survive.

Training and practice can help you diagnose developing problems, such as:

  • Partial or full loss of power on takeoff
  • Landing gear extension or retraction failure
  • Bird strike
  • A cabin door opening on take-off, landing, or mid-flight
  • A control problem
  • A control failure

How would you respond to each of these problems? What would be your plan of action?

You need to carefully visualize, think through, and plan how you would address each of these issues as well as any others that may be relevant to your operation. Talk with your flight instructor, and take time to plan and train for your response. For example, your instructor can help you practice your reaction to a primary or multi-function flight display failure. He or she can also throw other possibilities your way, including electrical failures, landing gear extension failures, and more. If you sign up for the WINGS pilot proficiency program, you can even have those training hours count toward a phase of WINGS!

You can also experience these failures on your flight simulator software on your home computer or personal electronic device. Some of these programs will allow you to set up random failures during a flight. If you don’t have access to a simulator, try sitting in your airplane (or your favorite chair) to practice drills andhelp you develop a pre-planned course of action and test your mastery of your abnormal and emergency checklists.

These drills have serious benefits:

  • You will rehearse sudden and subtle failures, and have the opportunity to practice overcoming your natural defenses (this can’t be happening to me) and rationalization (I don’t think this is as bad as it sounds).
  • You’ll get to know your aircraft’s systems, including how they work, how they fail, and how those failures can affect other systems or controls.
  • You will brush up on your single pilot crew resource management skills. By having a strong situational awareness of the aircraft and its flight path and the range of resources that are there to help you, including air traffic control, you’ll be able to reach out for assistance quickly.

Plan, rehearse, repeat. These simple exercises can save your life.

Message from FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta:
The FAA and industry are working together to prevent Loss of Control (LOC) accidents and save lives. You can help make a difference by joining our #Fly Safe campaign. Every month on, 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 2015, 384 people died in 238 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.

Learn more:
Learn more about maintaining and regaining control in Ch 4 of the FAA Airplane Flying Handbook.

This FAA Fact Sheet will give you tips on overcoming Startle Response.

Learn more about Managing the Unexpected in this FAA Fact Sheet.

FAA TV is now playing! This Surprise, Surprise video has good recovery tips.

This NTSB Safety Alert has lessons learned information that can be critical to your safety.

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

Check out GA Safety Enhancements fact sheets on the main FAA Safety Briefing website, including Flight Risk Assessment Tools.

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.

Amplify the news on Twitter and Facebook using #FlySafe.