By Rob Finfrock

Maintaining control in times of stress is an ambition for all professional aviators. On Nov. 16, approximately 100 pilots confronted the frightening subject of losing control of their aircraft during the annual National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Single Pilot Safety Standdown, held in conjunction with the association’s Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA2015) in Las Vegas, NV.

Mustang sillhouette

As in past years, CJP was among the sponsors for the five-hour event, which included presentations from several notable safety advocates and speakers, as well as breakout sessions for pilots to discuss with their peers methods to mitigate the risk of loss of control inflight (LOC) events.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), LOC represents just 17.4 percent of all accidents involving general aviation aircraft, yet contributes to more than 46 percent of all fatalities. LOC is the second-leading cause of total accidents involving business aircraft (only runway excursions occur more frequently) but causes the highest number of fatal accidents.

“We need to raise our game,” said Jim Lara, head of the NBAA Safety Committee’s Single Pilot Working Group. “In the business aviation segment, our numbers are heading the wrong way. They’re going up, while rates of other types of accidents are decreasing.”

NTSB board member and Beech Bonanza pilot Earl Weener offered a sobering assessment of that situation with two examples of recent, fatal business aircraft accidents attributable to LOC – “one from going too fast, and one going too slow” – and reiterated that LOC is, by far, the leading cause of fatal accidents among GA and business aviation pilots.

The standdown also introduced a 15-minute video presentation that simulated a seemingly-routine approach into Miami International Airport (MIA). Attendees watched as the that goes progressively awry, thanks to escalating task saturation from multiple factors, including severe weather, changing instructions from ATC and a low-fuel situation.

Garmin’s Noel Duerksen discussed current and future technologies to help pilots avoid, and safely recover from, LOC scenarios. That includes incorporating angle-of-attack information into the primary flight display airspeed tape display and utilizing existing automated systems on GA aircraft to provide stall protection and stability augmentation, similar to full envelope protection seen on advanced fly-by-wire aircraft.

“We all must be risk-aware, think about the threats that are out there and prepare ourselves to avoid the issue altogether,” said NBAA Safety Committee Chairman Steve Charbonneau. “If you get presented with a loss of control condition, arm yourself with the needed training to take the appropriate action and to protect yourself.”

A version of this article by the author was published as part of NBAA’s Online News Bureau coverage of NBAA2015.