As part of an ongoing campaign by the FAA and the GA community’s #FlySafe campaign to prevent Loss of Control accidents and save lives, each month the FAA focuses on best practices for GA pilots. This month’s focus: Personal minimums and how to integrate these safety measures in your flight planning.
Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM) is a critical element in flight safety, FAA officials note. It covers every task you perform, from preflight to securing your aircraft after flight.
Personal minimums are a pilot’s set of procedures, rules, criteria, and guidelines that help decide whether, and under what conditions, to operate (or continue operating) in the National Airspace System.
“Simply put, they are the minimum conditions you need for safe flight,” FAA officials said. “They’re personal because they pertain to you!”
Tips from FAA experts
Take the time to develop your personal minimums.
If you have already developed your personal minimums, have you reviewed them recently? If not, you should consider doing so before your next flight. A Certificated Flight Instructor can provide guidance and help you perform a more accurate self-assessment of your flying.
Once you’ve developed your personal minimums, write them down and keep them in a place where you can easily refer to them.
Before Flight: What Should I Consider?
Combined with ADM, personal minimums help you evaluate your risks before you begin your flight.
FAA officials suggest that you consider using the PAVE acronym to further develop your risk mitigation strategies: Pilot, Aircraft, enVironment, and External Pressures.
Here are just a few of the PAVE questions you should ask yourself:
- Am I feeling well and rested today?
- Is my stress level such that I can devote all my attention and energy to completing this flight safely?
- Are my piloting skills equal to the flight I am thinking of taking?
- Am I current and proficient in the aircraft I’ll be flying today?
- Have I had transition training in this aircraft?
- Is the aircraft I’ll be flying capable and equipped to complete this trip?
- Does the maintenance history indicate the aircraft is airworthy?
- Does my preflight inspection find no problems with the aircraft?
- Is there enough fuel onboard?
- Can both the aircraft and I fly in the expected weather conditions?
- Are alternative airports available?
- Does this flight have to be completed today?
- Are peers or passengers pressuring me to fly?
- Do I have commitments after the flight that I think I must meet?
- Do I feel pressured or rushed to get to my destination?
What about the Weather?
When we look at the environmental aspect of the risk equation, weather is naturally a big factor. It’s easy to detect the weather in your immediate area, but what if you are taking a longer-than-local flight?
Fortunately, there’s a lot of weather information available near cities and towns that have airports. However, if the area is remote – like some places in Alaska – weather information is much harder to come by.
To help fill that gap, the FAA developed a weather camera program in Alaska that provides real-time weather information that you can access on your computer or smartphone. Go to avcams.faa.gov, and click on any of the “dots” for real-time photographs and information.
The Alaska weather camera program is being updated to include a website redesign and mobile apps for IOS and Android platforms.
Plans are also underway to expand the program to the rest of the nation later this year, according to FAA officials. As weather cams do become available, work them into your preflight planning and personal minimum checklists.
What is Loss of Control?
A 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
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.
An FAA fact sheet outlines GA safety improvements and initiatives.
Check out the FAA Aviation Weather Cameras web page for real-time weather information in several US and Canadian locations.
This Personal Minimums Checklist is a handy tool to download and keep close.
This FAA Safety Briefing covers Personal Minimums in detail.
AOPA offers this personal minimums checklist.