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Aviation Learning Center Document AC 61-134 - Controlled Flight into Terrain Awareness
Author: Federal Aviation Administration Date: April 1, 2003
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2. Background
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a. According to FAA information, general aviation CFIT accidents account for 17 percent of all general aviation fatalities. More than half of these CFIT accidents occurred during IMC. The FAA is working in partnership with industry to develop an action plan and revise guidance material to reduce the incidence of CFIT within the GA segment of aviation. However, one of the problems in reviewing GA CFIT accidents is the lack of data, particularly human factors data. Since many of the pilots involved in GA CFIT accidents are fatalities and most GA aircraft are not equipped with data recording systems, the lack of GA CFIT accident data will continue to remain a problem for investigators.

b. Although many CFIT accidents have some common factors that are applicable for all types of aircraft, we want to stress the difference between a crewed aircraft with two pilots in the cockpit and a single-pilot aircraft. In crewed cockpits, the second pilot may make the difference between a safe flight and a CFIT accident. Conversely, a second pilot can also be a distraction in certain circumstances unless the crew has been trained to work well together and is following good crew resource management (CRM) techniques. As a general rule of thumb, whether an air carrier type aircraft or a GA aircraft, the crewed aircraft is generally better equipped with more safety equipment, such as an autopilot, radar altimeter, or ground proximity warning system (GPWS) onboard, than a typical single-pilot, small GA aircraft.

c. Because a single-piloted, small GA aircraft is vulnerable to the same CFIT risks as a crewed aircraft but with only one pilot to perform all of the flight and decision making duties, that pilot must be better prepared to avoid a CFIT type accident. In some cases, a GA pilot may be more at risk to certain CFIT type accidents because the pilot does not have the company management or government oversight that a corporate or commercial operator may be exposed to. Without such oversight, such as detailed standard operating procedures and higher mandatory safety requirements, it is the responsibility of the single-pilot to ensure he or she is well trained, qualified for the intended flight, meets all regulatory requirements for the flight, and has the self-discipline to follow industry recommended safety procedures that can minimize CFIT type accidents.

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