Loss of Control (LOC-I) in Approach and Landing

How to Stay Safe?

Stay safe and enjoy flying!

This section addresses important safety risks in General Aviation.

Several risks are addressed. The first article concerns Loss of Control In-flight (LOC-I) across all phases of flight and this article addresses Loss of Control in Approach and Landing.
For each type of risk, a fact sheet describes the subject importance and factors involved, and safety promotion material provide tips to mitigate the risk and avoid having an accident.
Safety promotion material can include safety leaflets and brochures, videos, posters and Safety Information Bulletins (SIBs).  Material have been developed by EASA, EGAST, National Aviation Authorities, associations and the GA community. Material from the FAA and the General Aviation Joint Safety Council (GA-JSC) in the US has been included. Getting acquainted with this material will help you stay safe and enjoy your flight.

Loss of Control (LOC-I) in Approach and Landing

Loss of control in flight mostly result from a failure to prevent or recover from stall or upset. Stall and upset mostly result from poor energy, attitude and flight path management and external factors such as structural damages, turbulences, cross-winds and wind-shear.

Loss of control may result from inadvertent entry into Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC) by non-Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) qualified pilots leading to spatial disorientation and perceptual illusions.

For an aircraft equipped with automation, loss of control can also result from poor automation management and inappropriate manual control inputs following “automation surprises”, for instance when the automation disconnects.
Stall and upset and failure to quickly recover will most probably induce acute stress. After initial startle and surprise, stress can quickly develop and downgrade both manual and mental performance so much that pilots can freeze at the controls. Fortunately, startle and surprise effect and stress control techniques can be trained.

How important is the LOC-I in Approach and Landing risk in GA?

Approach and landing is the second most risky phase of flight regarding the risk of Loss of Control in Flight accidents. Data on LOC-I accidents, both fatal and non-fatal, indicate that the highest number of accidents occur during Take-off and, when joined together, Approach and Landing.

More on risks: GA LOC-I in Approach and Landing fact sheet

More information on LOC-I in Approach and Landing accidents data and factors involved are provided in this GA LOC-I fact sheet.

Approaching & Landing safely and successfully

Before starting the approach, assess the situation: what are the weather, the wind and the temperature?  How do the airfield and runway conditions look like? How much fuel do I have? Is my aircraft and am I OK?

If an issue develops, do not let it deteriorate! Always have an exit strategy like turning back or diverting to another airfield or be prepared for a go-around. If the weather deteriorates, do not try to land at all costs at your planed destination and AVOID entering clouds! Warning: Without proper IFR qualifications, flying in IMC can kill you!

Loss of control accidents in approach and landing can be avoided by establishing and flying a stabilised approach - an approach with constant angle glide path towards a reference landing point. Flying too high or too fast will result in overshooting and flying to too low or too slow will lead to undershooting. Establish your stabilised approach in line with the manufacturer guidance. Configure your aircraft for landing early enough (at some reference distance from the runway or reference altitude). Then only small pitch, heading and power adjustments are necessary. Easy!

If not stabilised, go around! There is no shame in going around and that can save the day!
Anticipate and account that possibility when preparing your flight: make sure that that you have enough fuel for going around. From time to time, it is an excellent practice to perform go-around for the purpose of training, as the manoeuvre is not as simple as it appears and has been identified as a critical phase of the flight.

Monitor speed and angle of attack during the approach, knowing that stall can happen at any speed when reaching the critical angle of attack.

Pay attention to the wind in traffic pattern operations, especially on the base to final turn.
On final turn, load factors increase, which reduces the speed at which the critical angle of attack is reached and the aircraft stalls. Always think angle of attack when reading your speed: if you are in a turn, the same speed does not provide the same margin from the stall as in level flight! To avoid stalling the aircraft, increase power to increase speed above the stall speed and/or reduce the angle of attack below the critical angle of attack to keep the aircraft flying.

Crosswind landing requires appropriate skills, which must be trained in the simulator or when the conditions allow, in the aircraft, with a flight instructor. There are two crosswind landing techniques: crab and slip. Crab is easier and more comfortable. Unlike for normal landing conditions, crosswind landing requires uncoordinated landing. After landing, align with the runway and continue applying firm directional (aileron) control into the wind or the up-wind wing can rise high enough to cause the down-wind wing to scrap the ground, causing the aircraft to depart from the runway centreline and possibly to exit the runway.

How to prevent LOC-I in Approach and Landing accidents?

Always use the guidance provided by the manufacturer for your aircraft and seek advice from a flight instructor.
Various safety promotion materials developed by the Agency, in cooperation with the Agency or by other organisations are presented. This list is not exhaustive; you are encouraged to look for additional material on the internet.
It is good practice to exchange flight experiences in your aero-club and in internet forums to learn about what can happen and about conditions specific to your base and destination airfields. Internet forums also allow exchanging about aerodynamics, flight mechanics, weather, navigation, flying techniques and other basic subjects.

Learn about LoC-I in Approach and Landing risks and how to safely fly an approach and land the aircraft or make a go-around

Learn about how to avoid or recover from stall and spin and how to avoid icing-related LOC-I accidents

Learn about icing-related risks

Learn about how to address weather-related risks and how to make better decisions, starting with a Go-No Go decision

Other links