Loss of control in-flight (LOC-I)

Posted on February 9, 2020 in Aviation

A pilot’s primary responsibility is to avoid a loss of control (LOC) of the aircraft. Loss of control in-flight (LOC-I) is a leading cause of fatal general aviation accidents in the U.S. and commercial aviation worldwide.

The FAA defines LOC-I as a significant deviation of an aircraft from the intended flightpath. This often results from an airplane upset (an event that unintentionally exceeds the parameters normally experienced in flight). Most general aviation LOC-I accidents happen during flight maneuvers, however, accidents can occur in all phases of flight.

To prevent LOC-I accidents, pilots must recognize and maintain awareness of situations that increase the risk LOC. Those situations include: uncoordinated flight, equipment malfunctions, complacency, distraction, turbulence and poor risk management. One example is a pilot attempting to fly in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) when not qualified or proficient. There are, however, LOC-I accidents caused by a pilot’s intentional disregard or recklessness.

Pilots must be aware of situations where LOC-I can occur, recognize when an airplane is approaching a stall or is in an upset condition, and understand and execute the correct procedures to recover the aircraft.

Recent news coverage has highlighted the fact that continued VFR flight from visual meteorological conditions (VMC) into marginal VMC and IMC is a factor contributing to LOC-I. A loss of the natural horizon substantially increases the chances of encountering vertigo or spatial disorientation, which can lead to an upset situation.