The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) may be best known for its work in investigating major accidents, but it also has responsibility for investigating all aviation accidents – including the 1,500 GA accidents that occur in the United States each year. Concerned by the persistently high fatal GA accident rate, the NTSB has recently increased its focus on GA accident causes and possible mitigations. In June 2012, for example, the Board convened a two-day GA Safety Forum in which a diverse group of government and industry officials explored a variety of GA safety issues. As NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman noted during that session, “GA is essentially an airline or maintenance operation of one, which puts the responsibility for sound decision making on one person’s shoulders.”
As part of its own efforts to increase GA safety, the NTSB has recently issued several new Safety Alerts targeted at the most common types of GA accidents. Each Safety Alert is a brief information sheet that focuses on a particular safety hazard and offers practical ways to address the topic. Three of the newly-issued Safety Alerts focus on topics related to some of the most common defining events for fatal GA accidents, and two address risk mitigation. The newest additions to the NTSB Safety Alert set include:
- Is Your Aircraft Talking to You? Listen! Safety Alert SA-021 encourages pilots to pay attention to signs of possible mechanical problems. Few episodes of powerplant or component failure occur without any warning; those not-quite-right indications on engine gauges or instruments may be telling you something vitally important.
- Reduced Visual References Require Vigilance Safety Alert SA-020 stresses the need to avoid the often fatal mistake of continued VFR flight into instrument meteorological conditions.
- Avoid Aerodynamic Stalls at Low Altitude Safety Alert SA-019 focuses on mitigations for the continuing problem of loss of control in flight, which can occur when the pilot is distracted from the primary task of flying – aviating to maintain control of attitude, airspeed, and altitude.
- Mechanics: Manage Risks to Ensure Safety Safety Alert SA-022 includes tips to mitigate the risks involved in aircraft maintenance work. For example, it is extremely important to follow all recommended procedures and, no matter how many times a task has been performed, to always refer to written procedures and checklists.
- Pilots: Manage Risks to Ensure Safety Safety Alert SA-023 offers similar advice to pilots. One excellent way for pilots to mitigate risk is to make practical preparations for the possibility of trip diversion or cancellation. Such preparedness makes it much easier to do the right thing in the event of deteriorating weather.
Other topics covered in NTSB Safety Alerts include:
- Preventing Rote Callouts (SA-018)
- In-Cockpit NEXRAD Mosaic Imagery (SA-017)
- Aircraft Ground Icing (SA-006)
- Thunderstorm Encounters (SA-011)
- Controlled Flight Into Terrain in Visual Conditions (SA-013)
- Aircraft Inflight Icing (SA-014)
- Child Passenger Safety on Aircraft (SA-015)
- Meteorological Evaluation Towers (SA-016)
In addition to creating the five new Safety Alert documents, the NTSB is developing a short video for each one. Plans call for the videos to feature regional air safety investigators sharing their experiences and observations of the many accident investigations they have conducted. These experts will also provide advice on how pilots and mechanics can avoid mistakes that can lead to accidents. To read and/or download NTSB Safety Alerts, please visit: http:// go.usa.gov/2BeA.
(FAA Safety Briefing – JulAug 2013)