The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) yesterday released figures that show 21 people died from incidents where visual pilots flew into instrument conditions over the last 10 years.
The figures are contained in an updated report on VFR-into-IMC that is a part of an education initiative called "Don't Push it, Don't Go".
ATSB Chief Commissioner Greg Hood said that over the past 10 years there have been 101 instances where VFR pilots entered IMC, resulting in nine fatal accidents.
"These concerning figures taken from the ATSB’s National Aviation Occurrence Database show that almost one in 10 VFR into IMC occurrences resulted in fatal accidents,” Hood said.
“Weather-related general aviation accidents remain one of the ATSB’s most significant causes for concern in aviation safety; the often fatal outcomes of these accidents are all the more tragic because they are avoidable.”
“'The Don’t push it, Don’t go' campaign highlights three key messages: the importance of thorough pre-flight planning and having alternate plans, that pressing on where there is the possibility of entering IMC carries a significant risk of spatial disorientation and the value of using a personal minimums checklist to help manage flight risks,” Hood said.
ATSB Director Transport Safety Dr Stuart Godley outlined the physiology behind visual flight in cloud that puts the aircraft and occupants in a dangerous position.
“The brain receives conflicting or ambiguous information from the sensory systems, resulting in a state of confusion that can rapidly lead to incorrect controls inputs and a resultant loss of control of the aircraft,” he stated.
“Pilots without a current instrument rating should always be prepared to amend and delay plans to fly due to poor or deteriorating weather conditions, and not to push on.
“Have alternate plans in case of unexpected changes in weather, and make timely decisions to turn back, divert or hold in an area of good weather."
In the report's conclusions, the ATSB says that pilot decision making in relation to weather is complex, and therefore there is no single cause of VFR-into-IMC cases. The ATSB has encouraged pilots to consider the following seven strategies as a way of reducing the chance of inadvertantly entering cloud.
- Make decisions before the flight
- Continually assess the conditions
- Evaluate the effectiveness of the plan
- Set personal minimums
- Assess your fitness to fly
- Set passenger expectations by making safety the primary goal
- Seek local knowledge of the route and destination pre-flight.
The ATSB also points out that obeying established regulations means pilots stay within safety buffers.
The full report is on the ATSB website.