Oct. 6, 2020

Unstabilized approaches lead to a significant percentage of accidents, with approximately 65% of all accidents occurring in the approach and landing phases of flight, experts said during NBAA’s Single-Pilot Safety Standdown, emphasizing the importance of flying a stabilized approach on each and every flight through scenario-based training simulations and animation.

The session was part of NBAA’s Virtual Safety Week, which runs through Friday, Oct. 9.

David Miller, director of programs and safety education at Citation Jet Pilots (CJP), moderated the session, and opened by acknowledging all pilots think an unstabilized approach accident “can’t happen to them – but it does happen to us.”

Neil Singer, master instructor and CJP Safety Consultant, laid out the criteria for a stabilized approach and said, “The solution is simple: if unstable, go around.”

Singer walked attendees through the stabilized approach criteria, adding these criteria are found in Standard Operating Practices (SOPs), which CJP provides to any pilot free of charge. Singer explained these SOPs are applicable to many aircraft – not just Citations, and not just jets.

Former astronaut and retired U.S. Air Force Col. Charlie Precourt, now vice president and general manager of propulsion systems at Northrop Grumman, discussed recent Flight Safety Foundation research on approach and landing accidents. One reason these types of accidents continue occuring is because pilots don’t see current go-around policy criteria as realistic for the operational environment. The foundation has proposed new Safe Landing Guidelines as a result of this finding.

Miller said some pilots view going around as a failure. He countered this attitude, saying, “Going around is a good use of your command authority and decision-making skills.”

Singer emphasized how important a stabilized approach is for single-pilot operations, where the pilot is both the pilot, and the commander of the aircraft. For example, a pilot might get too focused on height and lose focus on speed.

The experts encouraged a change in psychology to remove the stigma sometimes associated with going around, and suggested pilots explain to passengers that going around can be the safest option, not an indication of a problem.

They also advocated for the use of flight data monitoring, which is becoming more affordable for general aviation operators, as a useful tool for self-assessment of stabilized approach performance, sharing data amongst specific type pilots and even reducing insurance premiums, in some cases.

Learn more about NBAA’s Virtual Safety Week.