The FAA has released a new video in its “57 Seconds” series to help pilots avoid Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) accidents. CFIT is defined as flying a perfectly good airplane into the ground for any of a number of reasons. According to current numbers, more than 17 percent of GA accidents are caused by CFIT, and half of those are fatal. The high fatality rate is due to the fact that CFIT crashes often occur during cruise flight at high speed, or at maneuvering speed during arrival, which is where 61 percent of CFIT accidents happen, according to the FAA. The new video also warns against in-flight distractions, including cellphones and tablets.
The FAA put out a longer video on CFIT back in 2016, including interviews with repentant pilots who had either survived CFIT crashes or narrowly avoided disaster. That earlier video focused on Alaska, where rapidly changing weather and common use of light airplanes for daily personal travel and regularly delivering supplies led to increased risk-taking over time.
Another factor cited in the longer video was pilots’ lack of experience and unfamiliarity with terrain-awareness avionics, which were just becoming more widely available back then.
The agency advised that pilots see fit to employ three strategies for avoiding CFIT: Always get a good weather briefing; set rigid personal minimums and stick to them, regardless of the mission; and always have a Plan B (and C, and D), should the original flight plan dissolve due to weather issues.