Expected the unexpected — that’s the latest message released by the FAA in its Fly Safe: Prevent Loss of Control Accidents campaign.
The FlySafe campaign is designed to educate GA pilots about the best practices to calculate and predict aircraft performance and to operate within established aircraft limitations, FAA officials say.
It focuses on Loss of Control (LOC) accidents, which are the No. 1 cause of fatal accidents, according to FAA officials.
So what is a LOC accident? It involves an unintended departure of an aircraft from controlled flight, agency officials explain.
LOC can happen when the aircraft enters a flight regime that is outside its normal flight envelope and quickly develops into a stall or spin. It can introduce an element of surprise for the pilot.“Fatal aviation accidents often result from a pilot’s inappropriate response to an unexpected event,” FAA officials say in the latest post in the FlySafe campaign. “Some pilots may experience a ‘startle response’ when faced with an unexpected situation or freeze or panic during an emergency. These events can quickly create a situation that is stressful, challenging, and even life-threatening, especially during flight.”
An unexpected inflight event requires fast, accurate action, FAA officials continue.
“Your best insurance is to have a plan,” they say. “Solid training, regular practice, and your discipline to strive for perfection on every flight will help you survive.”
Training and practice can help you diagnose developing problems, such as:
- Partial or full loss of power on takeoff;
- Landing gear extension or retraction failure;
- Bird strike;
- A cabin door opening on takeoff, landing, or mid-flight;
- A control problem;
- A control failure.
How would you respond to each of these problems? What would be your plan of action?
“You need to carefully visualize, think through, and plan how you would address each of these issues, as well as any others that may be relevant to your operation,” FAA officials advise.
“Talk with your flight instructor, and take time to plan and train for your response. For example, your instructor can help you practice your reaction to a primary or multi-function flight display failure. He or she can also throw other possibilities your way, including electrical failures, landing gear extension failures, and more. If you sign up for the WINGS pilot proficiency program, you can even have those training hours count toward a phase of WINGS.”
You can also experience these failures on your flight simulator software on your home computer or personal electronic device. Some of these programs will allow you to set up random failures during a flight.
If you don’t have access to a simulator, try sitting in your airplane (or your favorite chair) to practice drills and help you develop a pre-planned course of action and test your mastery of your abnormal and emergency checklists, FAA officials said.
These types of drills have “serious” benefits, officials say, such as:
- Rehearsing sudden and subtle failures gives you the opportunity to practice overcoming your natural defenses (this can’t be happening to me) and rationalization (I don’t think this is as bad as it sounds).
- You’ll get to know your aircraft’s systems, including how they work, how they fail, and how those failures can affect other systems or controls.
- You will brush up on your single pilot crew resource management skills. By having a strong situational awareness of the aircraft and its flight path and the range of resources that are there to help you, including air traffic control, you’ll be able to reach out for assistance quickly.
Plan, rehearse, repeat. These simple exercises can save your life, FAA officials conclude.
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.
Learn more about maintaining and regaining control in Chapter 4 of the FAA Airplane Flying Handbook.
This FAA Fact Sheet will give you tips on overcoming Startle Response.
Learn more about Managing the Unexpected in this FAA Fact Sheet.
The Surprise, Surprise video on FAA TV has good recovery tips.
This NTSB Safety Alert has lessons learned information that can be critical to your safety.
The FAASafety.gov website has Notices, FAAST Blasts, online courses, webinars and more on key general aviation safety topics.
Check out GA Safety Enhancements 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.