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Fly Safe: Prevention of Loss of Control Accidents

September 27– The FAA and General Aviation (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.

Are You an Impaired Pilot? Of course not, you may say. But, impairment doesn’t just cover illegal drugs and alcohol. Fatigue and over-the-counter or prescription drugs can lead to impairment, too.

  • Have you flown tired, because you’re eager to get home, thinking you’ll rest later?
  • Have you had a drink at dinner, and thought you were fine to fly home?
  • How about your cold medicine? Did you know it can cause impairment too?

It’s important to know the risk of taking risks with your safety and the safety of those who fly with you.

“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. You must be well-rested and free of distraction, and you must be free of drugs and alcohol.

“Eight hours bottle to throttle” is a minimum. Do not fly if you feel 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 you at increased susceptibility to spatial disorientation, hypoxia, and other problems.

Do You Need Help? The Human Intervention Motivation Study (HIMS) is a recovery program for pilots that major airlines and pilot unions support. More than 5,500 pilots have undergone treatment for alcohol use or dependency since 1975 and have been returned to the cockpit. Most pilots enter the program through self-disclosure.

General aviation pilots may not have access to HIMS, but there are a number of effective community programs available. Please work with your personal physician to identify what type of treatment would be good for you. Self-help groups such as Rational Recovery and Alcoholics Anonymous can be a critical source of support and treatment.

It may be hard to admit that you need help, but you can recover. Find treatment, stick with it, and don’t fly until you are safe to be in the cockpit.

And Finally…

  • Let your aviation medical examiner know every medication you take on a regular basis.
  • Make sure anyone prescribing medication for you knows that you are a pilot.
  • DO NOT FLY if you are feeling sleepy, “out of it” or jittery.
  • DO NOT FLY if you are using illegal drugs.
  • DO NOT FLY if you have recently consumed alcohol.
  • GET HELP for drug or alcohol abuse.

Make sure you are fully fit to fly so you and your passengers reach your destination safely.

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

Message from FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta: The FAA and industry are working together to prevent Loss of Control 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.

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.

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