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  Home > Newsletter > Managing Unexpected Events and Loss of Control Accidents, October 2015

Managing Unexpected Events and Loss of Control Accidents

While pilots, FBOs, airports and industry organizations do what they can to prevent any surprises prior to or during a flight, an unexpected event or loss of control situation can happen at any time.

Training and preparation can help pilots manage the startle response and effectively cope with an unexpected event. Let’s review some safety tips and measures from FAA.gov.

In the words of famed pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, “There’s simply no substitute for experience in terms of aviation safety.”

What is a LOC?

A Loss of Control (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
  • The use of over-the-counter drugs that impact pilot performance.

Managing 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
  • Landing gear fails to retract after takeoff, or fails to extend when ready to land
  • A bird strike
  • Control problems or failures

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

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.

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.

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.

For more information

The FAASafety.gov website has Notices, FAAST Blasts, online courses, webinars and more on key general aviation safety topics.

Check out the 2015 GA Safety Enhancements (SEs) fact sheets on the main FAA Safety Briefing website.

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