A Better Education?

When pilots get in trouble in the soup, controllers are often of little help.


||| |---|---| | | | If you inadvertently stumble VFR into IMC, or lose your primary flight instruments while flying IFR in the clouds, don't expect the controller to be of much help, at least according to the case presented in a recommendation made by the NTSB. From 1997 to 2000, there were 220 fatalities resulting from 113 accidents that occurred because pilots continued VFR in instrument conditions, or lost their gyro instruments. In many cases, the NTSB found, the controllers handling the accident flight seemed not to understand the nature of the emergency. On one such occasion a pilot who died in the crash of a Cessna 210 twice told the controller that he was "in the soup." When investigators later asked the controller what he thought the pilot meant by that, he replied that the pilot was indicating that there was haze in the area.

Citing this and several other similar crashes in which controllers failed to provide adequate emergency services to pilots in a similar jam, the NTSB recommended that the FAA give controllers training, including time in simulators, to ensure that when such emergencies arise, they'll better understand both the nature and the gravity of the situation.