Fly Safe: Prevent Loss of Control Accidents
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the general aviation (GA) community’s national #FlySafe campaign helps educate GA pilots about the best practices to calculate and predict aircraft performance and to operate within established aircraft limitations.
A Loss of Control (LOC) accident involves an unintended departure of an aircraft from controlled flight. 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.
Staying Safe on Approach
In a recent 10-year period, there were more than 1,200 fatal loss-of-control accidents. Many of those events occurred in the approach phase of flight, and many of those accidents resulted from an unstabilized approach or a failure to go around.
Stabilized approaches are important. A constant speed and consistent descent rate will get you to a smooth landing.
For instrument approaches, you will want to be stabilized no lower than 1,000 feet above the runway, on the correct flight path to touchdown. You’ll want to maintain the glideslope if you’re landing on a precision approach runway, or not more than a 1,000 foot per minute rate of descent for non-precision approaches.
You’re stable if you have to make only small corrections in pitch, heading and power to maintain the path. If the wind is gusting, you can add some speed to compensate, but no more than half of the gust factor.
If you’re not stable by the time you descend to 1,000 feet, you’ll want to go around and set up a more stable approach.
Changes For VFR
Visual flight rules (VFR) approaches are very similar, except that you can get a little closer to the ground before making a go-around decision. If you are flying a pattern, you need to be stable on final, in landing configuration with the landing checklist complete. If you’re not ready by 500 feet, go around.
Excessive speed, high altitude and the need to maneuver can all contribute to a de-stabilized approach.
If you enter the pattern at 150 knots or just above stall speed, or 1,000 feet above pattern altitude, your stabilized approach will be difficult.
If the pattern is busy, you may feel pressure, even from ATC, to land before you are ready. If that’s the case, exercise your pilot-in-command responsibility, say “unable” and go around.
There’s nothing wrong with saying “unable.” It’s better to be safe.
When to Go Around
- If you’re at or below 1,000 feet instrument flight rules, or 500 feet visual flight rules, and your approach isn’t stable, it’s time to go around.
- If your runway is out of service, or if traffic on the runway won’t be clear before you get there, go around!
The earlier you make the decision to go around, the easier it will be. Stick with your decision. Changing your mind will lead to destabilization and a difficult recovery.
- Plan to miss or go around. Know where and when you’ll make the decision.
- Pre-set your frequencies. Set your navigation and communications radios ahead of time.
- Manage distractions. Maintain a sterile cockpit.
- Practice missed approaches and go-arounds. Fly a missed approach at least once every quarter. Go around, re-enter the pattern and practice collision avoidance.
- Seek regular refresher training.
Message from Acting FAA Administrator Daniel Elwell:
The FAA and industry are working together to prevent Loss of Control (LOC) accidents and save lives. You can help make a difference by joining our #Fly Safe campaign. Every month on FAA.gov, we provide pilots with Loss of Control solutions developed by a team of experts — some of which are already reducing risk. I hope you will join us in this effort and spread the word. Follow #FlySafe on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I know that we can reduce these accidents by working together as a community.
More about Loss of Control:
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?
- From October 2016 through September 2017, 247 people died in 209 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.
This FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) Fact Sheet (PDF) has more information about maneuvering flight.
Chapter 8 (PDF) of the FAA’s Airplane Flying Handbook features approaches and landings, including stabilized approach and go-around.
This Stabilized Approach and Go Around (PDF) presentation from the NTSB Loss of Control Series has parameters, tips and tricks.
Time is getting short!!The FAA’s Equip ADS-B website gives you the information you need to equip now.
Curious about FAA regulations (Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations)? It’s a good idea to stay on top of them. You can find current FAA regulations on this website.
The FAASafety.gov website has Notices, FAAST Blasts, online courses, webinars, and more on key general aviation safety topics.
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.
The General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC) is comprised of government and industry experts who work together to use data to identify risk, pinpoint trends through root cause analysis, and develop safety strategies to reduce the risk of GA accidents. The GAJSC combines the expertise of many key decision makers in the FAA, several government agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and stakeholder groups. Industry participants include the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, National Business Aviation Association, National Air Transportation Association, National Association of Flight Instructors, Society of Aviation and Flight Educators, and the aviation insurance industry. The National Transportation Safety Board and the European Aviation Safety Agency participate as observers.