Fly Safe: Prevent Loss of Control Accidents

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The FAA and general aviation (GA) group’s #FlySafe national safety campaign aims to educate the GA community on best practices to calculate and predict aircraft performance and to operate within established aircraft limitations. 

What is a Stabilized Approach?
A stabilized approach is one in which the pilot establishes and maintains a constant angle glidepath toward a predetermined point on the landing runway.

However, the pilot must also:

  • Maintain a specified descent rate.
  • Maintain a specified airspeed.
  • Complete all briefings and checklists.
  • Configure the aircraft for landing (gear, flaps, etc.)
  • Maintain the correct altitude levels (such as 500 feet for a Visual Meteorological Conditions approach or 1,000 feet for an Instrument Meteorological Conditions approach).
  • Ensure only small changes in heading/pitch are necessary to maintain the correct flight path.

Go-Around for Safety
If a pilot does not meet these conditions, the approach becomes “unstabilized” and the pilot should consider a go-around to make a second attempt to land safely.

If you choose to continue with an unstabilized approach, you risk landing too high, too fast, or out of alignment with the runway centerline, and may be unprepared for landing. These situations can result in damage to the aircraft, or worse, to you and your passengers!

Important Clues
How you see the runway on your approach is an important factor in maintaining your safety. Pay attention to the shape of the runway. We all know that a runway is an elongated rectangle. However, from the air, the runway can appear to be a trapezoid, with the far end looking narrower than the approach end.

If your approach is too shallow, the runway will appear to shorten and become wider. If it is too steep, the runway will appear to become longer and narrower. These are signs that you may want to consider a go-around.

Are Stabilized Approaches Always Safer?
If you’ve incorporated the checklists and are prepared for a safe landing, the answer is yes. It’s a good idea to execute a go-around if your checklists are not completed. Your safety depends on your ability to focus on safely touching down.

What is Loss of Control?
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 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

Message from FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta:
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 a 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.

Did you know?
Last year, 384 people died in 238 general aviation 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 Loss of Control every four days.

Learn more:
Learn more with this Safety Enhancement flyer on Stabilized Approach and Landing.

What should the runway look like? This guide from will help.

Learn more in Chapter 4 of the FAA’s Instrument Procedures Handbook

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

Check out the 2016 GA Safety Enhancements (SEs) 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 accidents in GA.

An FAA fact sheet outlines GA safety improvements and initiatives.

The GAJSC combines the expertise of many key decision makers across different parts of the FAA, several government agencies, and stakeholder groups. The other federal agencies are the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board, which participates as an observer. 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 European Aviation Safety Agency also participates as an observer.