How safe is your pilot?


The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and industry are working together to prevent Loss of Control (LOC) accidents and save lives. In a message to the General Aviation (GA) industry, the FAA Administrator, Michael P. Huerta, urged pilots to make a difference by joining its Fly Safe campaign.

He said each month on, they are 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.

The FAA and GA group’s #FlySafe national safety campaign aims to educate the GA community on best practices for calculating and predicting aircraft performance, and operating within established aircraft limitations. Impairment may cause a pilot to exceed these limitations and lose control of the aircraft.

What is an impaired pilot?

Impairment doesn’t just cover illegal drugs and alcohol. Fatigue and over-the-counter or prescription drugs can lead to impairment, too, including:

• Flying tired, because a pilot is eager to get home, and think they can rest later
• Having a drink at dinner, and thinking it is okay to fly
• Taking a cold medicine – this can cause impairment, too

“Fit to fly” means free of ANY impairment, including drugs, alcohol, or fatigue.

What do the regs say?

The Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) require full fitness for flight. Pilots must be well-rested and free of distraction, and, of course, free of drugs and alcohol.

“Eight hours bottle to throttle” is a minimum. Pilots should not fly even if they feel just a little bit off. The FAA does not hesitate to act aggressively when pilots violate the alcohol and drug provisions of the FARs.

Fatal Results

According to the FAA Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, between 6 and 14 percent of pilot fatalities are alcohol related. The FAA calculated those statistics by analyzing blood and tissue samples from pilots who have died in aviation accidents.

Further analysis of pilots who died in an accident shows some used prescription drugs such as common sleep aids and cold remedies, without realizing that these drugs could make them unfit to fly.

A number of studies have found that a pilot’s performance can be impaired by only a few drinks, even after the pilot’s blood alcohol content (BAC) has returned to “zero.” In fact, these lingering effects can be detected up to 48 hours after consumption, and they can leave the pilot at increased susceptibility to spatial disorientation, hypoxia, and other problems.

What is Loss of Control?

A Loss of Control (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/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 prescription, over-the-counter, or illegal drugs or alcohol

Did you know?

Last year, 384 people died in 238 general aviation accidents.

• Loss of Control is 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 LOC every four days.