Pilot Proficiency Training

Accident Precursors Are Training Cues

originally published in FAA Safety Briefing

Loss of aircraft control accounts for both the most deadly AND the most common categories of accidents for GA pilots. Because of this, the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC) is laser focused on loss of control accidents, and is developing guidance on how to prevent them. The FAA recently published a Safety Enhancement Topic that is the product of GAJSC efforts that focuses on--can you guess?--pilot proficiency training. It lists the five most common precursors that lead to GA loss of control accidents. They are:

Disorientation—Most often associated with continued VFR flight into IMC. Accidents that occur following this precursor are 90 percent fatal.

Distraction—Just about anything can be a distraction to the pilot, but distractions are especially dangerous when close to the ground. The term "moose stall" refers to accidents where Alaskan pilots have lost control while maneuvering for a better look at a moose.

Inappropriate response—The "startle response" can lead to inaction or rash, inappropriate action in response to an emergency or abnormal condition.

Poor stick and rudder skill—This would seem to go without saying, but Lancair aircraft in particular suffer a disproportionate loss of control accidents--espeically landing accidents--that may be directly attributed to rusty aircraft handling skills.  

Inadequate risk management—The old admonition that pilots should exercise superior judgement to avoid situations where they might need superior skill is still applicable, especially for new Lancair pilots who lack the requisite skill.

Avoiding Precursors

So how can you avoid these common accident precursors? The GAJSC suggests proficiency training as your best bet. Among the recommendations:

Manage Your Training Environment—Flying to your next hundred-dollar hamburger is not the same as dedicated proficiency training. The best proficiency training involves an instructor familiary with your aircraft who can observe and coach you through the kinds of manuevers--slow flight, ground reference maneuvers, takeoffs/landings, instrument flight, etc.--that are proven to make you a better, safer pilot.

Determine Your Baseline Performance—If you have developed personal minimums to aid in risk assessment and decision making you need to do so immediately. Even if you have, you might reconsider them after determining your baseline performance for critical skill tasks for the type of missions you normally fly. You do this by have your instructor accurately and comprehensively document your performance on those tasks. Establishing a baseline can not only help you develop personal minimums, it will tell you where you need to concentrate your training efforts to get the most bang for your training dollar.

Expand Your Horizons—In addition to training for your typical operations, consider getting training outside of your normal mission requirements. For example, sailplane and tailwheel training are unparalleled at developing stick and rudder skills applicable to ALL aircraft. If you are based at a small, rural airport, consider flying into a busy metropolitan area with your instructor along. Or vice versa: big-city pilots often have reservations about flying into those wild and wooly non-towered airports.

Get Your WINGS—The FAA's WINGS Pilot Proficiency Program provides a ready means to document your training efforts because it's all saved online, allowing you and your instructor to review it any time. There are any number of online training resources that can give you credit toward the ground training portion of the required flight review, including LOBOLive!, LOBO's planned series of training webinars.

Practice, Practice, Practice

You've heard a gazillion times that practice makes perfect, but the reality is only perfect practice makes perfect. If you fly a hundred times to the same airport for your weekly hundred-dollar hamburger you'll probably feel like you can fly that flight in your sleep. Feeling that competent can lead to complacency and apathy toward training, which is a dangerous combination. Flying with your instructor regulary to practice activities you don't see on every flight is the best way to get and stay sharp, and innoculate yourself against loss of control accident precursors.

For questions/comments on this post contact LOBO via email: info [at] lancairowners.com.