Safety experts focus on control

NTSB has organized May 10 seminar for GA pilots

April 23, 2014

Stall-related accidents almost never happen when practicing stalls. AOPA file photo.

Loss of control in flight remains the leading cause of general aviation fatalities, accounting for about 40 percent of fatal accidents, according to the NTSB. The federal safety and accident investigation agency has organized a May 10 seminar designed for GA pilots, with a lineup of experts who will detail the common causes of losing aircraft control.

AOPA Foundation Air Safety Institute Manager of Aviation Safety Analysis David Jack Kenny will be among the presenters, joined by NTSB Board Member Earl Weener, and representatives from the FAA and the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators. The seminar will take place at the NTSB training facility in Ashburn, Va., and admission is free. Space is limited, however, and attendees are encouraged to register in advance. Pilots participating in the FAA Wings program will receive credit for attendance.

Kenny’s presentation will explore situations most likely to lead to unintended stalls.

“Unintended stalls—with or without spins—are implicated in about one of every eight fatal accidents in light airplanes, and almost none happen while deliberately practicing stalls,” Kenny said. “Instead, they most often take place while initiating go-arounds, simulating engine failures, attempting low-altitude buzz jobs, or just getting sloppy in the traffic pattern. Overweight and high-density-altitude takeoffs also figure into the accident record. We’ll examine each of these, present compelling evidence that it’s possible to stall an airplane in any attitude at any airspeed—and also show how to be sure you’ll only stall when you want to.”

Loss of control has been a major focus of flight training and safety education efforts by the Air Safety Institute and other GA organizations for years. The Air Safety Institute also has been working to improve aircraft safety through participation in the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee, a joint effort of the FAA and industry to enhance safety. In 2013, a work group of the committee (which is co-chaired by AOPA) identified angle of attack indicators as a key tool that can help pilots avoid stalls and loss of control. Work to facilitate more widespread deployment of these instruments by streamlining regulations and educating pilots about their benefits is ongoing, with a variety of relatively low-cost devices entering the market in recent years.

The May 10 event is the fifth in a series of NTSB seminars focused on GA accident prevention; the agency also has issued a safety alert that includes links to various online resources (including an Air Safety Institute online course covering aerodynamics, stalls, and spins).

Jim Moore

Jim Moore | Online Associate Editor, AOPA

AOPA Online Associate Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot who enjoys competition aerobatics.