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Speeches

Closing Remarks, NTSB Forum: Humans and Hardware: Preventing General Aviation Inflight Loss of Control, Washington, DC
Earl F. Weener, PhD
NTSB Conference Center, Washington, DC
10/14/2015

I want to thank everyone for participating in our final session. That was an invigorating and thought-provoking round-table discussion! Unfortunately, our forum is coming to an end. Thank you again to our panelists, attendees, and all the pilots out there who took the time to send in their questions. My sincere thanks to our excellent NTSB staff and, especially, to Dr. Dunks and Mr. Cox who helped create such an excellent program. Let’s give all of them a hand….

As we’ve learned today, Loss of Control crashes are the single biggest threat to general aviation in the United States. Those startling statistics and unacceptable loss of life are the reason why prevention of loss of control in flight is on the NTSB Most Wanted list of transportation safety improvements.

Thank you, Dr. Sackier, for reminding us all that every “statistic” represents the real loss of someone’s father or mother, son or daughter, friend or loved one. 

Not every crash is preventable, but as we’ve heard today, many, many are. If any loss of life can be prevented, we must act. The opportunity to spread the message about preventable tragedies is why today’s forum is so important.

We have heard that the us of technologies such as such as angle-of-attack indicators and envelope protection may reduce the Loss of Control incidents. General Aviation pilots should follow these developments, because, properly implemented, they could provide a valuable additional safety margin.

But, we also heard today that the single most important piece of “equipment” on that plane is the PILOT. Every pilot should demand the same level of safety in general aviation that the field of commercial aviation has attained. No pilot’s passion and enthusiasm for flight should ever be marked by a Loss of Control Crash.

Even one aviation fatality is one too many, and any preventable tragedy is simply unacceptable.

The in-flight environment can be demanding and unforgiving, but general aviation pilots can protect themselves, their passengers and their fellow pilots with better knowledge, training, decision-making, and above all, VIGILANCE. Better safety practices start with an HONEST self-examination of a pilot’s skill sets and a conscious effort to expand safety margins, and reduce risks.

Our panelists have pointed out that it is not enough to attain a basic knowledge of an airplane’s operation. Instead, each pilot must understand how any plane or technology he or she operates will behave in a situation that may lead to loss of control. And, that understanding must be bolstered by regular, relevant training.

Pilots must maintain situational awareness at all times……I can’t stress those last three words strongly enough. At. All. Times. I encourage all general aviation pilots to remind themselves and to remind fellow pilots, at every opportunity, that you have one task: Fly the plane. Aviate, then navigate and communicate. Distraction from the essentials of flight is a factor in the vast majority of Loss of Control crashes. Angle of attack and airspeed can never be taken for granted or treated as routine. 

The experts today have described distraction, inattention and medical and substance related impairment. Whatever its sources, we as pilots must all work eliminate any impediment to the primary task of flying our planes.  We can never forget that Loss of Control events can happen to experienced, conscientious, knowledgeable pilots as well. It only takes one lapse, at the wrong time, to lose control. As the proverb goes, “One moment’s error becomes a lifetime of sorrow.” That is why I said at the outset that loss of control crashes should be a subject of conversation, “hangar flying”, everywhere that pilots gather, whether in person or online.

Although our forum has come to a close, we hope to see you at future NTSB events and forums. In the coming weeks, the NTSB will host video from this forum on the forum web page and on our YouTube channel. We will issue a news release once the video is available.

Pilots, we invite you to share this video content.

Instructors, if it is helpful for your classes, please feel free to incorporate it.

Former Intel CEO, Andy Grove, said ““Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” So, in conclusion, I ask each of you to learn best practices and stick to them, flight after flight. Challenge your fellow pilots to maintain vigilance against the distractions, impairment, poor training and complacency that cost lives. Working together I know that we can improve general aviation safety and PREVENT loss of control crashes.

We stand adjourned.