“Well, I thought I could do that….” If you are lucky enough to survive an accident and make that statement, you are very fortunate indeed.
Most GA aircraft do not have the dedicated automated flight data recording devices that the commercial operators have, but there are other ways to monitor performance.
- Panel-mounted GPS systems and many hand-held units are capable of recording position, heading, speed, and altitude.
- Engine monitors may have recording capability.
- Oil analysis will gauge engine health, and, more importantly, prevent potentially catastrophic failures.
- Some aircraft, especially helicopters, are equipped with chip detectors that can forecast engine and transmission failures in time for a safe landing.
When we talk about aircraft performance, we’re looking at three basic needs:
- How much can I haul?
- How far can I go?
- How long will it take me to get to my destination?
- When planning a flight, decide how much weight you want to haul, and where you want to take it.
–Start with the crew and passengers, then, add cargo. If you have already exceeded your aircraft’s capability, you’ll have to trim the passenger count, reduce the cargo, make multiple trips, or get a bigger aircraft.
- Next, you’ll need to figure out how much fuel you can take, and after you consult the weather, you’ll figure out how far you can go.
- If you have enough fuel to get to your destination plus an alternate airport, plus reserve, you’re good.
- Next, run a weight-and-balance calculation to make sure you’re operating within the weight and balance limitations of your aircraft.
- Think about takeoff and landing.
- Consider your departure and arrival airport runway lengths, obstructions, and expected density altitude.
- If the field is short and/or obstructed, you may not be able to fly safely with a full load.
- Last, but far from least, make sure YOU are up to the task. Pilot skill and experience count for a lot.
- Be conservative when you calculate your performance and consider adding a safety factor.
- Some pilots add 50-percent to their takeoff and landing calculations for safety.
Now, it’s all up to you. The calculations won’t mean much if you, the pilot, can’t duplicate them in your flying.
Contributing factors may include:
- Poor judgment or aeronautical decision making
- Failure to recognize an aerodynamic stall or spin and execute corrective action
- Intentional failure to comply with regulations
- Failure to maintain airspeed
- Failure to follow procedure
- Pilot inexperience and proficiency
- Use of prohibited or over-the-counter drugs, illegal drugs, or alcohol
- From October 2016 through September 2017, 247 people died in 209 general aviation accidents.
- Loss of Control was 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 Loss of Control every four days.
Check out the GA Safety Enhancement fact sheet on Engine Maintenance and Performance Monitoring (PDF). You can also learn more about the important steps you need to take after you’ve serviced your airplane with our fact sheet on Advanced Preflight After Maintenance (PDF). A full list of fact sheets is available at www.faa.gov/news/safety_briefing.