Fly Safe: Prevent Loss of Control Accidents

lossImage: Via FAA

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.

Image: Via FAA

A Loss of Control (LOC) accident can happen when the aircraft exits its normal flight envelope and enters into a stall or spin. If a pilot is not paying close attention, the departure from controlled flight can be a surprise, adding confusion at a time when every second counts.

What is Best Glide Speed?
To answer that question, it’s best to first look at what you’re trying to do. Are you looking for the speed that will get you the greatest distance … or the speed that helps you achieve the longest time in the air? Or, are these two the same: the longer you fly, the further you will go?

Distance
If you’re looking for distance, you’ll need to use the speed and configuration that will give you the most distance for each increment of altitude lost. This is called Best Glide Speed, and on most airplanes, it is roughly halfway between Vx (best angle of climb speed) and Vy (best rate of climb speed).

Not all manufacturers publish a best glide speed, but some do, and it’s a good idea to find the published speed best for your aircraft.

Best glide speed will increase with weight, so many manufacturers will establish this speed at gross weight for the aircraft. This means that your best glide speed will be a little lower for lower aircraft weights.

Time in the Air
If you are more interested in staying in the air as long as possible, then you are looking for minimum sink speed. This speed is rarely found in pilot operating handbooks, but it is a little less than maximum glide range speed.

Check it Out
If you’re interested in getting to know these speeds for your specific aircraft, try these experiments on a dual flight with your flight instructor:

  • Start at Vy, or the manufacturer’s recommended best glide speed with power off, and note speed versus sink rate as you adjust pitch to reduce airspeed. You should do this as close to your typical weight as possible.
  • To identify minimum sink speed, look for the highest speed forward that will give you the lowest rate of descent.

How Far Can I Go?
Knowing how many miles you can glide per 1,000 feet of altitude is another very useful piece of information. Generally, Cessna 152s and 172s will glide 1.5 nautical miles per 1,000 feet of altitude above ground level. Check it out with your aircraft and your flight instructor.

Forced Landing
Practice before you need it! Practice power off approaches at typical mission weights. Doing so will keep these skills from getting rusty.

When practicing a power-off landing, try aiming for a spot a little more than a third of the way down the landing area. Once you are certain you will safely make that spot, add flaps and consider slipping the airplane to steepen your approach and land a little sooner. This will help you reduce the chances of landing short of the runway or entering a stall while trying to stretch the glide to the runway.

Position, Position, Position!!
For any type of gliding approach, you’ll want to reach a key position on base from which you will know you can make a safe and successful landing. Until you get there, keep your airplane configured for the best glide. After you pass the key position, add flaps and gear to configure the airplane for landing and fly the final approach at 1.3 times the stalling speed in landing configuration (1.3 Vso).

The FAA’s Airplane Flying Handbook has several helpful diagrams.

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. 

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.