The National Transportation Safety Board today released its 2015 list of “Most Wanted” transportation safety improvements and at the top of the list cited loss of control in general aviation as among the most pressing dangers demanding urgent attention.
“While airline accidents have become relatively rare in the U.S., pilots and passengers involved in general aviation operations still die at alarming rates every year due to loss of aircraft control by the pilot,” the NTSB said in a statement issued this morning.
Between 2001 and 2011, more than 40 percent of fixed-wing GA fatal accidents occurred because of loss of control, the Safety Board said. The NTSB blamed the trend on pilot proficiency standards that are less rigorous than those of airline pilots. The Board pointed to long intervals between flying for many GA pilots, a poor understanding of aerodynamic stalls/spins and the requirement for GA pilots to complete a flight review once every 24 months compared with more frequent training for professional pilots.
What can be done to reduce the risk of loss of control for GA pilots? Installing safety gear such as an angle-of-attack indicator is a good first step, the Board said. Such equipment is more affordable thanks to FAA rules that eliminate the need for costly certifications.
Because stalls at low altitude and stall/spins account for the majority of loss of control fatalities, the NTSB also recommends that GA pilots:
•Be prepared to recognize the warning signs of an impending stall, and be able to apply appropriate recovery techniques before stall onset.
•Be honest with themselves about their knowledge level of stalls, and their ability to recognize and handle them.
•Utilize aeronautical decision making techniques and flight risk assessment tools during both preflight planning and inflight operations.
•Manage distractions so that they do not interfere with situational awareness.
•Understand, properly train, and maintain currency in the equipment and airplanes they operate. They should take advantage of available commercial trainer, type club and transition training opportunities.