The FAA and general aviation groups launched the Fly Safe national safety campaign to educate the GA community on how to prevent Loss of Control (LOC) accidents this flying season.
FAA Deputy Administrator Mike Whitaker officially kicked-off the #FlySafe campaign on Saturday, June 6, at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s (AOPA) Fly-In at the Frederick Municipal Airport, Frederick, Maryland.
What is Loss of Control?
As pilots know, a Loss of Control accident involves an unintended departure of an aircraft from controlled flight.
Loss of Control 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. Contributing factors may include: Poor judgment/aeronautical decision making, failure to recognize an aerodynamic stall or spin and execute corrective action, intentional regulatory non-compliance, low pilot time in aircraft make and model, lack of piloting ability, failure to maintain airspeed, failure to follow procedure, pilot inexperience and proficiency, or the use of over-the-counter drugs that impact pilot performance.
Did you know?
- Approximately 450 people are killed each year in GA 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 LOC every four days.
“The FAA and industry are working together to prevent Loss of Control accidents and save lives,” said Mike Whitaker, FAA Deputy Administrator.
He noted that a team of FAA and industry experts — the GA Joint Steering Committee — have studied the data on the leading causes of LOC GA accidents and have developed solutions, some of which are already reducing risk.
“Each month on faa.gov, a LOC solution will be highlighted, along with links to learn more,” he added.
The first topic is Angle of Attach (AOA) indicators.
Angle of Attack (AOA) indicators
The “Angle of Attack” is the angle between a plane’s wing and the oncoming air (relative wind). If the angle of attack becomes too great, the wing can stall and lose lift. If a pilot fails to recognize and correct the situation, a stall could lead to loss of control of the aircraft and an abrupt loss of altitude.
More than 25% of GA accidents occur in the maneuvering phase of flight. Half of those accidents involve stall/spin scenarios. Stalls can happen during any phase of flight, but they are critical when planes are near the ground and have less room to recover, such as during landing and takeoff.
The FAA encourages owners and operators of GA aircraft to install AOA systems in their aircraft.
An AOA indicator is a cockpit instrument that may help prevent loss of control in small aircraft because it provides a more reliable indication of airflow over the wing. Although AOA indicators have been available for some time, the effort and cost associated with gaining installation approval limited their use in general aviation. In February 2014, the FAA simplified design approval requirements for AOA indicator. Today, AOA indicators are becoming increasingly affordable for GA pilots and can help prevent stalls.
Why should GA equip with AOA indicators?
An airplane can stall at any speed, FAA officials note. An AOA indicator can help avoid a stall because speed alone is not reliable. For a given configuration, the airplane always stalls at the same angle of attack (the critical angle of attack). Without an AOA indicator, AOA is “invisible” to pilots.
An AOA indicator can help when used in conjunction with airspeed and existing stall warning systems, when available. It can be used to get the pilot’s attention (via audio and/or low cost stick shakers) even if the pilot is not looking at it. This focuses the pilot’s attention on where it needs to be to avoid the stall.
FAA policy on AOA installation.
NBAA 2015 Top Safety Focus Areas and Reducing LOC-I Accidents in Business Aviation.
Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE) resource center on avoiding Loss of Control.
AOA: More than Just a Display and Angle of Attack and The Alpha (and Omega): How a small angle can make a huge difference, FAA Safety Briefing, May/June 2014.