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FAA issues safety alert on slow flight requirementsFAA issues safety alert on slow flight requirements

The FAA has published a new safety alert on maneuvering during slow flight. The Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) is a reminder to the flight training community that the certification standard for performing and demonstrating slow flight in an airplane has changed and spells out how to set up slow flight maneuvers for training and testing.

The Federal Aviation Administration is one of the many government agencies that have influence over general aviation. Photo by David Tulis.

In the SAFO dated Aug. 30, the FAA notes that loss of control is the leading cause of fatal general aviation accidents in the United States and that preventing loss of control is a pilot’s fundamental responsibility. Because slow flight is a condition that increases the risk of loss of control, pilots should understand how an airplane performs and be proficient at controlling the airplane during slow flight.

In the past, certification standards required private pilot applicants to establish and maintain “an airspeed at which any further increase in angle of attack, increase in load factor, or reduction in power would result in an immediate stall.” This required most slow flight maneuvers to be conducted while the stall warning was activated, a condition that “is neither desirable nor intended,” according to the SAFO.

New airman certification standards (ACS) that took effect June 15 require the pilot to maintain a speed referenced to the 1G stall speed. And the SAFO recommends one way to set up the maneuver to eliminate the stall warning while still demonstrating an understanding of airplane performance and needed control inputs to safely maintain slow flight.

“We’re encouraging flight instructors, designated examiners, and others in the training community to read the SAFO and familiarize themselves with its recommendations,” said Justin Barkowski, AOPA director of regulatory affairs. “Many will need to adjust their training and testing procedures to align with the new standards.”

In the SAFO, the FAA emphasized that it “still expects a pilot to know and understand the aerodynamics behind how the airplane performs from the time the stall warning is activated to reaching a full stall.” The SAFO also notes that the FAA has completed a significant rewrite of Chapter 4 of the Airplane Flying Handbook to remove inconsistencies in the guidance on conducting and evaluating slow flight. The FAA anticipates the revision will be available in October.

Elizabeth Tennyson

Elizabeth A Tennyson

Senior Director of Communications
AOPA Senior Director of Communications Elizabeth Tennyson is an instrument-rated private pilot who first joined AOPA in 1998.
Topics: Advocacy, Airman Regulation, FAA Information and Services

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