New paper provides suggestions to avoid inflight loss of control

A paper recently released by the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE) reiterates that loss of control inflight (LOC-I) is the leading cause of fatal GA accidents and suggests ways pilots can prevent it.

The paper, titled Maintaining Aircraft Control, is available free to the public in the SAFE Resource Center

A study by the FAA’s General Aviation Joint Steering Committee last year showed that LOC-I fatal accidents occur at almost three times the rate of the second leading cause, controlled flight into terrain.

“In fact,” said co-author Rich Stowell, “inflight loss of control accidents from 2001 to 2010 outnumbered the next five accident categories combined, so in 2012 FAA flagged GA inflight loss of control accidents as a special safety emphasis area.”

A 3:43 minute SAFE inflight video demonstrating several loss of control scenarios is available on YouTube. (Caution: may not be suitable for viewers with weak stomachs).

The new document discusses fatal GA upsets attributable to pilots, the flight environment, weather, aircraft system anomalies and operations that take the aircraft outside its design limitations. A special section explains the difference between upset prevention and recovery training and traditional aerobatics.

Much of the paper is expected to be included in the December revision of the FAA’s Airplane Flying Handbook, a primary source of information for those learning to fly.

Among other findings, the paper shows that lack of pilot practice is a primary cause of such accidents, and that the existing culture in general aviation often does not provide guidance or emphasis for instructors on continued pilot education and training.

“Pilots who lose control usually haven’t maintained enough proficiency to handle something out of the ordinary,” said Stowell. “It takes ongoing practice and refinement to maintain the skills needed to be a safe, competent pilot.”

master aerobatic instructor Rich Stowell in a loss of control situation (looking UP at the ground)

Master Aerobatic Instructor Rich Stowell in a loss of control situation (looking UP at the ground)

Internationally known as The Spin Doctor, Stowell co-authored the paper with Randy Brooks, Jeff Edwards, Janeen Kochan and Paul Ransbury. All are SAFE members and Stowell, Brooks and Ransbury are Master Aerobatic Instructors. The paper has been almost two years in development, according to SAFE officials.

In 2013, SAFE also created a new Flight Instructor “Open Forum” presentation to help flight instructors teach loss of control avoidance. The new forum features PowerPoint slides with trigger questions, presenter notes and a separate presenter’s guide and has been approved by the FAA.

It is the 12th Open Forum presentation produced by SAFE at the request of the FAASTeam. Previous SAFE Open Forums include Instructor Professionalism, Transitioning to Experimental/Amateur-Built Aircraft and Controlled Flight Into Terrain.

The Preventing Loss of Control Accidents Open Forum debuted in the FAA’s fiscal first quarter, with presentations to CFIs by SAFE Executive Director Doug Stewart in Albany, NY., and Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Former FAASTeam national manager Kevin Clover called the latest presentation “great work” and praised SAFE for producing programs that improve the quality of flight instruction.

“We hope that all pilots, especially flight instructors and safety professionals, will use both the print analysis and the Open Forum to share best practices to reduce fatal loss of control accidents,” said Stewart.

He added that the open forum, in particular, has been designed to encourage lively discussion among instructors, FAA examiners, FAASTeam representatives and others.

The full presentation will soon be available in SAFE’s Resource Center as well, although limited to SAFE members only.

For more information: SAFE.org. 

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