NTSB Safety Alerts

Reduced Visual References Require Vigilance


Historically, about two-thirds of all general aviation (GA) accidents that occur in reduced-visibility weather conditions are fatal. These accidents typically involve pilot spatial disorientation or controlled flight into terrain. Even in visual weather conditions, flights at night over areas with limited ground lighting (which provides few visual ground references) can be challenging.

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Avoid Aerodynamic Stalls at Low Altitude

Aerodynamic stall accidents fall int othe "loss of control in flight" category, which is the most common defining event for fatal accidents in the personal flying sector of general aviation. While maneuvering an airplane at low altitude in visual meteorological conditions, many pilots fail to:

  • avoid conditions that lead to an aerodynamic stall,
  • recognize the warning signs of a stall onset, and
  • apply appropriate recovery techniques.

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Pilots: Manage Risks to Ensure Safety

Although few pilots knowingly accept severe risks, accidents can also result wen several risks of marginal severity are not identified or are ineffectively managed by the pilot and compund into a dangerous situation. Accidents also result when the pilot does not accurately perceive situations that involve high levels of risk.

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Is Your Aircraft Talking to You? Listen!

Some pilots do not pay adequate attention to indications of aircraft mechanical problems, which can lead to in-flight emergencies and accidents. Powerplant system or component failure is the third-most common defining event for fatal ccidents in the personal flying sector of general aviation.

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Controlled flight into terrain. Recent NTSB investigations have identified several accidents that involved controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) by both instrument flight rules (IFR)-rated and visual flight rules (VFR) pilots operating under visual flight conditions at night in remote areas.
Ground Icing

Fine particles of frost or ice, the size of a grain of table salt and distributed as sparsely as one per square centimeter over and airplane wing’s upper surface, can destroy enough lift to prevent a plane from taking off.

Almost virtually imperceptible amounts of ice on an aircraft wing’s upper surface during takeoff can result in significant performance degradation.

Small, almost visually imperceptible amounts of ice distributed on an airplane’s wing upper surface cause the same aerodynamic penalties as much larger (and more visible) ice accumulations.

Inflight Icing

As little as 1/4 inch of leading-edge ice can increase the stall speed 25 to 40 knots. The danger is that some 1/4-inch accumulations have minimum impact and pilots become over confident.

Sudden departure from controlled flight is possible with only 1/4 inch of leading-edge ice accumulation at normal approach speeds.


Recent NTSB investigations have identified several accidents that appear to be wholly or partly attributable to in-flight encounters with severe weather.

These accidents have all involved aircraft operating under instrument flight rules and in contact with air traffic controllers.

Investigations show that pilots were either not advised about areas of severe weather ahead or were given incomplete information.

Meteorological Towers

Meteorological Evaluation Towers (METs) are used to measure wind speed and direction during the development of wind energy conversion facilities. METs are made from galvanized tubing (or other galvanized structure) with a diameter of 6 to 8 inches and are secured with guy wires that connect at multiple heights on the MET and anchor on the ground.

Many METs fall just below the 200-foot Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) threshold for obstruction markings. They can also be erected quickly and without notice to the local aviation community, depending upon their location