Fly Safe: Prevent Loss of Control Accidents
March 30– The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and General Aviation (GA) community’s national #FlySafe campaign aims to educate GA pilots on the best practices to calculate and predict aircraft performance and to operate within established aircraft limitations.
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 #FlySafe campaign. Each month on FAA.gov, we provide 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.
What is Loss of Control?
An 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.
Maneuvering Flight: Low-Level Safety
This month we’re focused on how to maintain safety during the maneuvering phase of flight: during take-off, landing, and while you are maneuvering in the traffic pattern. Other examples of maneuvering flight include aerobatics formation flight, turns around a point, and aerial application.
Did You Know:
- Maneuvering flight accidents can result in fatalities, serious injuries lost wages, severe damage to the aircraft, insurance claims, and lawsuits.
- More than 25 percent of general aviation fatal accidents occur during these flightsbelow 1000 feet Above Ground Level (AGL).
- Most of these accidents involve stall/spin scenarios and buzzing attempts.
- Many occur before you’ve left the traffic pattern.
Relative Wind and Angle of Attack
Pilots learn during flight training that the relative wind is opposite the direction of flight.
- Any discussion of relative wind should include Angle of Attack (AoA), the angle between the chord line of the wing and the relative wind.
- When the aircraft exceeds its critical angle of attack, it will stall in nose-up and nose-down flight attitudes.
Training and technology are available to help pilots avoid exceeding the critical AoA. An AoA indicator warns when you are about to exceed a wing’s lift capacity. Consider adding one to your safety toolkit!
A pilot can stall at any flight attitude and airspeed. However, most fatal stall/spin accidents occur at low altitudes, when recovery is unlikely.
- Stay safe by 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 dramatically.
- Be aware of how stall/spins happen and how you can get out of them.
Traffic Pattern Rules
In the pattern, you’re flying at low altitudes, low airspeeds and high angles of attack. Know your aircraft’s limitations and remember these simple rules:
- Base to final: “Cheating” on the turn after overshooting final is very dangerous. Keep a normal turn going. If the approach is not salvageable once you roll out, go around!
- Stabilized approach: Airline crews stop maneuvering 1,000 feet above when on approach for landing. For lighter aircraft, 500 feet could be the maneuvering “hard deck.” This means the flight is on airspeed, at the right altitude, with the appropriate descent rate and aligned with the runway. Not stable on approach? Go around!
- Before-landing checklist: Complete your checklist, with the possible exceptions of landing flaps and props full forward before turning base. If you are interrupted, run the checklist again. It’s better to take your time than to miss an important item. Don’t have time? Go around!
Each pilot has practiced turns around a point to build skill in wind compensation, aircraft ground track control, orientation, and division of attention.
However, you will increase your risk for stalls if you do this maneuver while close to the ground. They are called “moose stalls” in Alaska and “coyote stalls” in Arizona because the pilot is focused more on the target point than flying the aircraft. Bottom line: focus on your flying, and not an object outside of the cockpit!
It’s critical that you know the skills of the pilot next to you. A miscommunication or lack of skill can be deadly. Practice, practice, practice before attempting this type of maneuver.
Buzzing over your friend’s house to show off your plane or flying skills is NEVER a good idea. It’s reckless, and could lead to a violent AoA stall. Buzzing accidents account for many maneuvering accidents and are preventable. No amount of skill will allow recovery from a spin below 1000 feet. Be safe and don’t do a buzzing stunt!
Experienced mountain pilots are trained to fly in canyon conditions, are familiar with the terrain, and make sure they always have an out. Following a river at low altitude, with terrain on either side, can turn into a dangerous situation. Surprises can be around the next bend including wires, hills, or another aircraft. If your aircraft is not capable of making a 180-degree turn in the confines of the canyon, don’t go there. Do not fly below canyon rims!
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.
Take the FAASTeam Online Course, Maneuvering: Approach and Landing.