Tuesday, 20 January 2015


When I came into commercial aviation in the mid-‘80s CFIT (controlled flight into terrain) was widely acknowledged as the biggest hull-loss and fatality risk we faced, and I was glad that the BAC1-11 I was flying at Dan Air was equipped with GPWS. A few years later and we saw the intelligent offspring of GPWS (and of the grandfather of terrain awareness, Honeywell’s Don Bateman) in the form of EGPWS and I among many others believed we had confined CFIT to history but that was not the case. Accident data show that pilots continue to fly perfectly serviceable aircraft into the ground, often in spite of terrain awareness warnings – the global turbo-prop fleet appears to be especially exposed. Yves Benoist, head of safety at Airbus in the ‘90s, devised his own ’10 Right Things to Do’ and two of those were:
  • Know where you are; and
  • Know where the terrain is…
That advice remains valid.

Approach and landing accidents or ALA as FSF has called them for many years, have always dominated the accident statistics and that is scarcely surprising because these are the phases of flight in which we deliberately fly towards the ground. Unlike take-off when we transition from a little runway to a big sky and it is hard to miss, on approach we must leave that big sky and aim for a little runway – it was always going to be more difficult. The solution, conclusively proven in at least one airline I worked with, is to rigorously apply and monitor the stabilised approach criteria and insist (with sanction if necessary) that pilots always go-around if the approach is not stable at the required altitude or becomes destabilised below that altitude. Why wouldn’t you?

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