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How to avoid CFIT at Night by lhh12385


									                       Ja mes w illi a ms

                       How to avoid CFIT at Night

                       A         ccording to statistics, Controlled Flight
                                 into Terrain (CFIT) is a major cause of
                                 accidents for all pilots, not just those who
                       lack an instrument rating, so it is not surprising
                       that many of these happen at night. Night flying can
                       offer some of the best experiences of your aviation
                                                                                had departed Bakersfield, California, en route
                                                                                to Santa Barbara, California. A similar accident
                                                                                happened in Winchester, Virginia, when a Piper
                                                                                Cherokee collided with trees and terrain at 2,800
                                                                                feet while descending for landing. All three occu-
                                                                                pants were killed. Three fatalities resulted, when a
                       career (less traffic, generally smoother air, fewer      Learjet departed Brown Field, south of San Diego,
                       storms). But it also presents challenges that can        California, and struck terrain while being radar
                       make it more dangerous.                                  vectored in a mountainous area east of the airport,
                               Earlier this year, the National                  resulting in three fatalities. Even contact with air
                       Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a              traffic can’t guarantee that a night CFIT accident
                       safety alert about Night CFIT due to a number of         won’t happen. Many more examples were given in
                       recent accidents. The examples NTSB provided             the report, but all had the same theme: Night, strik-
                       were from all across the country and various             ing terrain, and fatalities.
                       types of terrain. Two fatalities resulted when a                  While the airplane might not know that it is
                       Piper Saratoga descended from 8,500 feet to 6,500        dark outside, the pilot does. The pilot loses a huge
                       feet, and collided with a 6,700-foot peak. The pilot     amount of information when dark obscures his

6   FAAAviation News   November/December 2008
or her view out the windshield. Innovations like                                           I
                                                                                        •	 	 f	you	fly	at	night,	especially	in	remote	or	unlit	
Enhanced Flight Visual Systems (EFVS), Synthetic                                           areas, consider whether a global positioning
Vision Systems (SVS), and night vision goggles                                             system (GPS)-based terrain awareness unit
(NVG) may one day eliminate the threat of unseen                                           would improve your safety of flight.
terrain or obstacles, but they will take some time to
become widely available to most GA pilots.
         In the meantime, how can you avoid becom-                                 James Williams is a Technical Writer-Editor in Flight Standards Service’s
                                                                                   General Aviation and Commercial Division. He is also a pilot and a
ing a statistic? Planning and preparation are the
                                                                                   ground instructor.
best defenses. Taking some time before you take-
off to familiarize yourself with your flight and the
terrain you’ll be operating over is well worth the
investment. The NTSB Safety Alert offers the follow-
ing tips to avoid a night CFIT accident:
    •	 	 errain	familiarization	is	critical	to	safe	
       visual operations at night. Use sectional
       charts or other topographic references to
       ensure that your altitude will safely clear ter-
       rain and obstructions all along your route.
    •	 	 hen	planning	a	nighttime	Visual	Flight	
       Rules (VFR) flight, follow Instrument Flight
       Rules (IFR) practices, such as climbing on a
       known safe course until well above sur-
       rounding terrain. Choose a cruising altitude
       that provides terrain separation similar to
                                                          Michael W. Brown photo

       IFR flights (2,000 feet above ground level in
       mountainous areas and 1,000 feet above the
       ground in other areas).
    •	 	 hen	receiving	radar	services,	do	not	
       depend on air traffic controllers to warn you
       of terrain hazards. Although controllers will
       try to warn pilots if they notice a hazardous
       situation, they may not always be able to
       recognize that a particular VFR aircraft is                                 For More Information
       dangerously close to terrain.                                               The Cheapest Insurance, FAA Aviation News, March/
    •	 	 hen	ATC	issues	a	heading	along	with	an	
       W                                                                           April 2008, available online at
       instruction to “maintain VFR,” be aware                                     news/aviation_news/2008/media/marapr2008.pdf
       that the heading may not provide adequate
                                                                                   NTSB Safety Alert: Controlled Flight into Terrain in
       terrain clearance. If you have any doubt
                                                                                   Visual Conditions at
       about your ability to visually avoid terrain
       and obstacles, advise ATC immediately and
       take action to reach a safe altitude.                                       NTSB safety recommendation letter issued as a result
    •	 	 or	improved	night	vision,	the	FAA	recom-
       F                                                                           of minimum safe altitude warning and ATC awareness
       mends the use of supplemental oxygen for                                    issues at
       flights above 5,000 feet.                                                   A06_44_47.pdf

                                                                                                                                 November/December 2008        FAAAviation News   7

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