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Loss of Control Accident Safety Review

The aviation industry has made many impressive safety advancements since Orville and Wilbur Wright made their first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903. Still, Loss of Control (LOC) accidents continue to cause many fatal accidents every year.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), more than 40 percent of fixed-wing general aviation fatal accidents between 2001 and 2011 occurred because pilots lost control of their aircraft.

Don’t let an unexpected event become an unexpected emergency — training and preparation can help pilots manage stress and fear and effectively cope with an unexpected event. Here’s a review of LOC safety tips from FAA.gov.

Causes of LOC events

A LOC accident refers to airplane accidents that result from situations in which the pilot should have maintained, or regained aircraft control, but did not. LOC is subdivided into two types: loss of control-in flight (LOC-I) and loss of control-ground (LOC-G).

A LOC accident can occur when an unintended departure of an aircraft from controlled flight takes place. Actions and variables that can lead to a LOC include:

  • Poor aeronautical judgment/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
  • Use of over-the-counter drugs that impact pilot performance

Inappropriate responses to unexpected events

Fatal general aviation accidents often result from inappropriate responses to unexpected events, such as:

  • Partial or full loss of engine power after takeoff
  • Failure of landing gear to retract after takeoff or extend for landing
  • A bird strike

Whether it’s a lack of pilot knowledge and skill, or an initial inappropriate reaction such as a startle response that leads to a LOC, a LOC accident is often survivable if control is maintained throughout the emergency.

LOC tips for pilots

  • Think about unexpected events and potential hazards ahead of time, review and practice “what if” scenarios and practice your plan and mitigation strategies.
  • Know in advance the difference between a low-risk and a high-risk flight.
  • Brief your plan prior to takeoff, even when flying solo.
  • Have a Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI) join you to train and plan for emergencies.
  • Review emergency procedures for your aircraft on a regular basis — don’t wait until you need a Flight Review.
  • Sit in your aircraft or a properly equipped Aviation Training Device and practice unexpected event and emergency procedures, touch the controls, and visualize your aircraft’s cockpit.
  • Vocalize takeoff, approach, and landing expectations: aircraft configuration, airspeed, altitude and route emergency options.
  • Sign up for the WINGS Pilot Proficiency program and have your hours with the CFI count toward a WINGS level.

Use a Flight Risk Assessment Tool

A Flight Risk Analysis Tool (FRAT) is an easy-to-use, visual tool that helps pilots proactively identify hazards and make better go/no-go decisions ahead of every flight, and thus better manage and handle any unexpected events should they arise.

There are many FRAT options available for mobile devices and apps for flight planning, weather briefing, and flight monitoring/tracking. More robust, complex apps can also help you think through a more complete range of hazards and risk factors.

Source: Safepilots.org, “Avoiding Loss of Control

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