On June 6, at AOPA’s Homecoming Fly-In, the association and the FAA formally kicked off a new program focused on improving general aviation safety. Dubbed “Fly Safe,” the FAA’s campaign will be highlighting GA accident causes and solutions in partnership with AOPA and other industry organizations. The agency says preventing GA fatalities is one of its top priorities, with the goal of reducing the GA fatal accident rate by 10 percent over a 10-year period (2009-2018). Noting that loss of control (LOC)—mainly stalls—accounts for the largest number of GA accidents, the new program will start there.
An LOC accident “involves an unintended departure of an aircraft from controlled flight” and can happen “anywhere and at any time.” The new program comes on the heels of last year’s new streamlined policy for angle of attack (AoA) system approvals and now moves into outreach to the GA community on loss of control topics. According to the agency, there is a fatal LOC accident every four days.
Factors contributing to an LOC accident, according to the FAA, may include: “poor judgment/aeronautical decision making, failure to recognize an aerodynamic stall or spin and execute corrective action, intentional regulatory non-compliance, low pilot time in aircraft make and model, lack of piloting ability, failure to maintain airspeed, failure to follow procedure, pilot inexperience and proficiency, or the use of over-the-counter drugs that impact pilot performance.” Each month, the FAA’s Web site, www.faa.gov, will feature a different LOC situation
The agency said it is focused on reducing general aviation accidents primarily using a non-regulatory, proactive and data-driven strategy to get results. The FAA envisions the process to be similar to the strategy it uses in commercial aviation.
Other safety-related topics the FAA intends for its Fly Safe campaign’s focus on LOC include “working with manufacturers to build stall resistance into aircraft designs through the use of improved aerodynamics, limited pitch control capability and sensed angle of attack to better inform the pilot.” The agency said its ongoing efforts contributed to producing autopilots providing “automatic limiting to help prevent loss of control incidents and accidents.”
The next-generation ATC system, NextGen, is part of the equation, as is ADS-B. The FAA also said it is working to clarify the role of “data-link weather in GA operations and the use of portable equipment.” Presently, even the agency’s own ADS-B In services are advisory-only. Other efforts focus on airframe icing “forecast and avoid” and “detect and escape.”
The FAA isn’t the only government organization taking on GA safety and LOC: The NTSB’s 2015 list of its “most wanted” transportation safety improvements includes preventing LOC accidents. The NTSB noted that “between 2001 and 2011, over 40 percent of fixed wing GA fatal accidents occurred because pilots lost control of their airplanes.” The NTSB recommends that pilots “seek training to ensure that they fully understand stall phenomena, including AOA concepts, and how elements such as weight, center of gravity, turbulence, maneuvering loads, and other factors affect an airplane’s stall characteristics.”