Fly Safe: Prevent Loss of Control Accidents

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the general aviation (GA) community’s national #FlySafe campaign helps educate GA pilots about the best practices to calculate and predict aircraft performance and to operate within established aircraft limitations.

A Loss of Control (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.

What does it Mean to “Fly the Aircraft First?”

Eliminate distraction. How often have we heard that phrase when it comes to operating dangerous or heavy equipment, especially driving a car? How tempting is it to pay less attention to your aircraft and more attention to an air traffic control (ATC) transmission, app, or conversation while in the cockpit?

NTSB data suggests that distraction is a significant cause of accidents. These accidents can be avoided. We remind you to maintain aircraft control at all times. This might mean a short delay in responding to ATC communications or passenger requests. In other words, Fly the Aircraft First!!

Aviate, Navigate, Communicate

Do you remember that lesson from your first days in pilot ground school? Aviate, Navigate, Communicate. Three top priorities, but the leader of them all is Aviate. That means to fly the airplane by using the flight controls and flight instruments to direct the airplane’s attitude, airspeed, and altitude. The instruments directly in front of you provide important information about your control of the aircraft. They give you critical information about airspeed, attitude, altitude, vertical speed and rate, magnetic heading, and turns and coordination.

Rounding out the top three is Navigate (figuring out where you are and where you’re going), and Communicate (talking with ATC or someone outside the cockpit). It seems very simple, but it’s easy to forget when you become distracted.

Disconnect from Distraction

This example demonstrates how deadly distractions can be. Do all that you can to minimize distractions from every source. Explain sterile cockpit procedures to your passengers. Self-brief if you are alone. Establish the focused, no-nonsense mindset you need for critical phases of flight.

Staying ahead of the airplane is another good practice. That way, if something comes up, you’ll have more time to assess its impact on safety and determine an appropriate course of action.

Emergency Practices

Finally, if you think you might be in an emergency situation, this is no time to go it alone. Use the pilot-in-command’s authority and declare an emergency. It’s always better to explain your actions from a safe place on the ground than to have this become your final flight. A good way to prepare for emergencies is to practice your emergency procedures regularly. Brush up on your short and soft-field takeoffs and landings, as well as your power-off approach and landings. And, be sure to practice these maneuvers at your planned mission weight to improve your chances for success should a real emergency occur.

Message from Acting FAA Administrator Daniel Elwell:
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?

  • From October 2016 through September 2017, 247 people died in 209 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: 

Eliminating Distractions is on the NTSB’s Most-Wanted list.

Distracting Distractions is the title of this excellent briefing from AOPA.

The Flight Safety Foundation includes this briefing on distractions in its Tool Kit.

This helpful FAA Fact Sheet will give you more information and references about how to “Fly the Aircraft First.”

The FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) WINGS Pilot Proficiency Program has more information.

Time is getting short!! The FAA’s Equip ADS-B website gives you the information you need to equip now.

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 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.