Group Focuses Attention on Angle of Attack Indicators

Joint FAA/AOPA committee urges adoption of the technology.

AOA Indicator

AOA Indicator

A group named the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC), co-chaired by the FAA and AOPA, released a detailed 148-page report in September that addresses loss of control (LOC) accidents in the approach and landing phase. LOC was responsible for 40.2 percent of fatal GA accidents in the time frame from 2001 through 2010.

The good news is that our technology is working. According to the report, controlled flight into terrain accidents diminished during the period, and terrain warning GPS technology gets the credit. One piece of technology the report would like GA to "embrace to the fullest extent" is the angle of attack indicator. Without an AOA device, pilots have only their airspeed indicator, attitude instruments and the seat of their pants to gauge actual angle of attack.

Stalls are directly attributed to excessive angle of attack (the relationship between the wing chord line and the relative wind), rather than attitude. Angle of attack changes not just with attitude, but also due to changes in airspeed, bank angle and wind conditions. To the unwary pilot — the report cites those flying after a period of inactivity or transitioning to new aircraft — an angle of attack indicator can be a lifesaver.