Loss of control occurs when an airplane unintentionally departs from normal flight, usually with fatal consequences. LOC remains, in fact, the largest single source of fatalities in aviation. LOC remains at the top of the NTSB’s 10 Most Wanted List of problems in search of solutions.
In an effort to mitigate LOC accidents the National Transportation Safety Board’s Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt recently convened a roundtable in Washington D.C. The NTSB’s Director of the Office of Aviation Safety John DeLisi kicked off the discussion with 18 industry experts by reminding them that more than 1,500 people have died in the last 10 years from loss of control accidents. Sumwalt said in a statement about the event, “We achieved what we aimed to do, bring together leading experts in government, industry and academia to identify training and cockpit technology solutions that could make a difference, as well as dig into the challenges of implementing these solutions.” The NTSB reports about 1,000 pilots and GA enthusiasts watched the day-long session online, with many receiving FAA WINGS credit.
Sumwalt added. “the statistics are trending in a good direction, thanks to the FAA’s and industry’s efforts to address LOC. However, from NTSB accident investigations, we know that much more can and should be done to accelerate the improvements in training and technology, because one death for what is largely a preventable problem is one too many.”
After the event, Sumwalt organized the group’s findings into three main categories of future focus.
Training . . .
• Address pilot weaknesses and skills requirements; pilots should always continue to improve their skills. • Reward pilots for additional training taken and ratings achieved, and incentivize new instructors to make sure pilots are taught correctly. • Teach students the importance of maintaining situational awareness during their initial training. The first 10 hours that new pilots spend with instructors can be some of the most important. • Recognize that technology is not a substitute for basic stick and rudder skills, nor can it compensate for poor training. • Incorporate more realistic scenarios into flight training regarding stalls. Ensure pilots have the confidence to complete a stall recovery. • Train for the startle factor so it doesn’t happen at low altitudes. The stall warning might be too late to recover.
Technology . . .
• Find a responsible role for cockpit technology; it can make a big impact on safety. • Continue to responsibly innovate. • Reduce angle of attack (AOA); this is the key to recovery. AOA indicators can help. • Continue to quickly certify new technologies in a variety of aircraft types.
Other ideas . . .
• Use data to improve GA safety; data monitoring programs can help us standardize safety. • Establish mechanisms where industry and government can continue to collaborate to collectively find solutions. • Recognize that regulation and mandates aren’t always the answer; education and outreach may be a better approach. • Utilize pilot social networks and type clubs to learn and grow. • Get involved in working groups; study best practices and incorporate outcomes. • Be aware of the limits of the airplane; pilots should not fear the capabilities of their planes. • Change the way we handle outreach by unifying around a single topic, like LOC.