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Fly safe: Prevent loss of control accidents

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and general aviation (GA) community’s national #FlySafe campaign aims to educate GA pilots on the best practices to calculate and predict aircraft performance and to operate within established aircraft limitations.

Message from FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta:
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. Each month on FAA.gov, we’re providing pilots with a Loss of Control solution developed by a team of experts. They have studied the data and developed solutions – some of which are already reducing risk. We 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.

Safety Enhancements: Preventing Loss of Control
This month, we’re focused on personal minimums and how to integrate these important safety measures into your flight planning.

Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM) is a critical element in flight safety. It covers every task you perform, from preflight to securing your aircraft after flight. It helps you and your passengers reach your destination safely.

Personal minimums are the pilot’s set of procedures, rules, criteria, and guidelines that help the pilot, decide whether, and under what conditions, to operate (or continue operating) in the National Airspace System. Simply put, they are the minimum conditions you need for safe flight. They’re personal because they pertain to YOU!

Take the time to develop your personal minimums and please consider:
Have you developed or recently reviewed your personal minimums? If not, you should consider doing so before your next flight. A Certificated Flight Instructor can provide guidance and help you perform a more accurate self-assessment of your flying.
Once you’ve developed your personal minimums, write them down and keep them in a place where you can easily refer to them.
Refer to personal minimums often! It may save your life!

Before Flight: What Should I Consider?
Combined with ADM, personal minimums help you evaluate your risks before you begin your flight. Consider using the PAVE acronym to further develop your risk mitigation strategies: Pilot, Aircraft, enVironment, and External Pressures.

Here are just a few of the PAVE questions you should ask yourself:
Pilot
Am I feeling well and rested today?
Is my stress level such that I can devote all my attention and energy to completing this flight safely?
Are my piloting skills equal to the flight I am thinking of taking?
Am I current and proficient in the aircraft I’ll be flying today?
Have I had transition training in this aircraft?

Aircraft
Is the aircraft I’ll be flying capable and equipped to complete this trip?
Does the maintenance history indicate the aircraft is airworthy?
Does my preflight inspection find no problems with the aircraft?
Is there enough fuel onboard?
enVironment
Can both the aircraft and I fly in the expected weather conditions?
Are alternative airports available?

External Pressures
Does this flight have to be completed today?
Are peers or passengers pressuring me to fly?
Do I have commitments after the flight that I think I must meet?
Do I feel pressured or rushed to get to my destination?

What about the Weather?
When we look at the environmental aspect of the risk equation, weather is naturally a big factor. It’s easy to detect the weather in your immediate area but what if you are taking a longer-than-local flight?

Fortunately, there’s a lot of weather information available near cities and towns that have airports. However, if the area is remote – like some places in Alaska – weather information is much harder to come by. To help fill that gap, the FAA developed a weather camera program in Alaska that provides real-time weather information that you can access on your computer or smartphone. Go to avcams.faa.gov, and click on any of the “dots” for real-time photographs and information.

The Alaska weather camera program is being updated to include a website redesign and mobile apps for IOS and Android platforms. Plans are also underway to expand the program to the rest of the nation later this year, so stay tuned. As weather cams do become available, work them into your preflight planning and personal minimum checklists.

What is Loss of Control?
A LOC accident involves an unintended departure of an aircraft from controlled flight. LOC can happen because the aircraft enters a flight regime that is outside its normal flight envelope and may quickly develop into a stall or spin. It can introduce an element of surprise for the pilot.

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?
In 2015, 384 people died in 238 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.

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