Aviation Safety Letter 1/2004

Food for Thought - Phases of Flight that Lead to Accidents

Statistics taken from the 2002 Transportation Safety Board Statistical Summary of Aviation Occurrences

We mentioned in the last issue of Recreational Aviation that there were fewer accidents in 2002 than in 2001, specifically 7% fewer. Of a total of 323 aviation accidents, which excludes ultralight airplanes, 274 involved Canadian registered aircraft. Accidents are frequently classified according to the first event, or abnormal condition, in the sequence of events that led to the occurrence.

In 2002, the most common first event in airplane accidents was during the take-off or landing phase. They accounted for 21% of all accidents. The second most common first event was an engine power-loss, which accounted for 14% of the total. Loss of control of the aircraft during the take-off or landing phase and collision with an object or terrain were the third and fourth most common first events, and were responsible each for 8% of all accidents.

Accidents most often take place during the landing phase, and account for 35% of all accidents. The aircraft noses-over or blows a tire and the pilot/crew loses control. Accidents in the take-off phase occur when there is a power-loss followed by a loss of control (24% of all accidents). The en-route phase of flight poses its own hazards and accounts for 15% of all accidents.

Students and airplane pilots with a private licence are more commonly involved in take-off or landing accidents, where the first event is a loss of control of the airplane or a power-loss of the engine. On the other hand, commercial or air transport pilots were involved in proportionally more accidents where collision with terrain, component malfunction or weather-related accident was the first event, than pilots with other types of licence. Recreational flights accounted for 49% of airplane accidents in 2002.

Taking a look at these statistics, we can surmise that recreational pilots can and should take an active role in ensuring that they will not become one of the statistics in next year's analytical study of aircraft accidents. How? A few basic principles of airmanship followed to the letter should provide recreational pilots with the required abilities to conduct each and every flight in a safe and coordinated manner.

If we assume that a pilot is well-rested and has not consumed any drugs or over-the-counter medication that may impair their judgment and physical abilities, they will most likely complete a successful flight when: 1) they have planned well for all of the phases of the flight; 2) they have received recurrent training from a properly licensed and experienced flight instructor; 3) the flight is carried out under meteorological conditions of winds, clouds, temperature and turbulence that do not exceeds the capabilities of the pilot and of the airplane; 4) the pilot is familiar with all of the emergency procedures required and is well prepared for such an event; 5) the aircraft is airworthy and the pre-flight inspection has confirmed that all necessary equipment is available and functions properly and that the aircraft weight and balance evaluation is within the prescribed limits.

The above should represent the minimum standards for the conduct of a safe and fruitful flight. Are you up to the task?

Previous PageNext Page
Date modified: