Fly Safe: Prevent Loss of Control Accidents

Wednesday, August 15, 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.

Heads-Up! Did You Know…

  • More than 25 percent of general aviation fatal accidents occur during the maneuvering phase of flight, which is turning, climbing, or descending close to the ground.
  • More than half of the stall or spin accidents occur in the traffic pattern, usually too close to the ground for recovery.

These are ample reasons why you need to brush up on your maneuvering skills.

As a pilot, maneuvering flight operations deserve your full attention, especially during:

  • Take-offs, landings, and go-arounds
  • Stalls and spins
  • Formation, aerobatics, and training
  • Forced/emergency landings
  • Photography

Training is Important

Remember your stall and spin training? You need to revisit it frequently. Try practicing stalls, or approaches to stalls, at a safe altitude with an experienced instructor.

Remember that turns, either vertical or horizontal, load the wings and increase the stall speed.

Other ways to avoid stalls include:

  • Avoid target fixation — Focus on flying the airplane, not what is on the ground. Too much focus on the ground can lead to a stall, and you may not recover!
  • No buzzing! — Flying low and fast over a target in order to show off your piloting skills is NEVER a good idea and can easily lead to a stall. Buzzing is the cause of 32 percent of maneuvering accidents. Worse yet, they’re usually fatal.

Keep Your Priorities Straight

Finally, here are some maneuvering tips to remember:

  • The slower you go, the more you need to focus on flying the airplane.
  • Minimize distractions, especially when taking off, approaching, descending, and landing.
  • Review all requirements, procedures, and numbers BEFORE you need to use them.
  • Watch your airspeed, and keep your head in the game.

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:

This FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) Fact Sheet has more information about maneuvering flight.

The FAA Safety Briefing has two articles on maneuvering flight: “Getting It Right in Maneuvering Flight” in the March/April 2010 issue (pdf page 17) and “Slow, Steady, Sure” in the March/April 2011 issue (pdf page 22).

Pilots may think that maneuvering flight only includes hazardous operations such as buzzing. But, when you fly in the traffic pattern you’re also performing maneuvering flight procedures. This AOPA Safety Advisor will explain the risks and show you how to avoid them.

The FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) Wings Pilot Proficiency Program is always worth a second look. You can also get WINGS credit for taking the FAASTeam’s online course, ALC-34 Maneuvering: Approach and Landing.

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.