The FAA and general aviation (GA) group’s #FlySafe national safety campaign aims to educate the GA community on how to prevent Loss of Control (LOC) accidents.
What is Loss of Control (LOC)?
A Loss of Control (LOC) accident involves an unintended departure from controlled flight. LOC can happen when an aircraft operates outside its normal flight envelope and could quickly develop into an aerodynamic stall or spin, surprising the pilot. Contributing factors may include poor judgment/aeronautical decision making, failure to recognize a stall or spin and execute timely corrective action, or intentionally failing to follow regulations. Inexperience in a particular make and mode of aircraft, lack of piloting ability, failure to maintain airspeed, failure to follow procedure or the use of over-the-counter drugs that affect pilot performance have also been cited as playing a role in this type of accident.
Many fatalities could be avoided if pilots are better informed and trained on how to fly at the best glide speed when preparing for a forced landing.
What is the best glide speed?
Simply put, best glide speed is the airspeed at which the aircraft glides the farthest with the least loss of altitude. If faced with a forced landing situation, the best airspeed depends on what you’re trying to do. Are you looking to cover the greatest distance or the longest time in the air? Here’s what you need to know:
Distance: Use the speed and configuration that will get you the most distance forward for each increment of altitude lost. This is often referred to as the best glide speed. On most airplanes, it’s roughly half-way between Vx and Vy. Keep in mind that speed increases with weight, so most manufacturers establish the best glide speed at the maximum gross weight for the airplane. This means your best glide speed will likely be a little lower.
Time: If you need to stay in the air as long as possible to fix a problem or communicate your intentions and prepare for a forced landing, then you want the minimum sink speed. This speed is rarely found in the Pilot Operating Handbooks; it will be a little slower than the maximum glide range speed.
What about my airplane?
Plan to experiment on a flight with your Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI). Start at Vy, or the manufacturers recommended best glide speed with power off, and note the speed versus sink rate as you adjust pitch to reduce airspeed. You should be as close to mission weight as possible. To identify minimum sink speed, look for the highest speed forward that will give you the lowest rate of decent. Knowing these speeds will give you important numbers to have in the back of your mind if a situation ever warrants their use.
How far can I glide?
A rule of thumb for Cessna 152s and 172s is 1.5 nautical miles per 1,000 feet of altitude above ground level. Experiment to see how far your airplane can glide.
Tips for pilots
There is no substitute for frequent practice at typical mission weights. One trick is to choose a spot between the first and second third of the runway or landing area for an initial aiming point. If you determine that you can make that initial spot, add flaps and perhaps slip the airplane to move the aiming spot to the first third of the landing area. It’s better to land long than to stall or land short of the runway.
For a gliding approach, you’ll want to reach a key position from which you know you can make a successful landing during your base leg. Until the key position is reached, keep the airplane configured for best glide. After you pass the key position, add flaps and gear to configure the airplane for landing and fly the final approach at 1.3 times the stalling speed in landing configuration (1.3 Vso).
When was the last time you practiced these maneuvers? They can help provide a better understanding of best glide speed when maneuvering to complete a forced landing.
- 90-degree power-off approach and landing
- 80-degree power-off approach
- 360-degree power-off overhead approach
- Overhead spiral approach
Message from FAA Deputy Administrator Mike Whitaker:
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?
- Approximately 450 people are killed each year in GA 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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