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Pilots alerted to dangers of flying with reduced visibility

Flying with reduced visibility

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is launching a new safety priority for pilots, after investigating an increasing number of accidents caused by flying with reduced visual references, such as in cloud or at night.

ATSB Chief Commissioner, Martin Dolan said the ATSB’s recently released report into a tragic accident of a Cirrus SR22 aircraft at Boxwood, Victoria last year, shows what can go wrong as light conditions deteriorate and the risks of flying increase.

The pilot was attempting to land after last light and, using a family member positioned in a motor vehicle at the end of a private runway to illuminate the runway, collided with terrain causing fatal injury.

“This accident highlights that flying with reduced visual references, can have tragic consequences,” Mr Dolan said.

To stay safe pilots should know their limits, plan ahead, be equipped, not be fooled by initial good visibility, know their position and not press on with their journey if visual cues start to deteriorate.

“Pilots need to be on the lookout for a range of circumstances that can decrease visibility, including cloud, rain, fog, smoke or haze.”

 The main risks associated with flying with limited visibility are a:

  • loss of orientation, leading to loss of control of an aircraft and an uncontrolled flight into terrain and
  • insufficient visibility to enable a pilot to see and avoid obstacles while remaining under control, known as a controlled flight into terrain.

“The ATSB is so concerned with the number of accidents we are investigating that are the result of flying with reduced visual cues, that we have added it to our nine official safety priorities, known as SafetyWatch,” Mr Dolan said.

“By highlighting these priorities to pilots, we aim to make them more aware of the risks and avoid making what can be catastrophic mistakes while flying.”

To stay safe pilots should know their limits, plan ahead, be equipped, not be fooled by initial good visibility, know their position and not press on with their journey if visual cues start to deteriorate.

The ATSB has produced a new video, Flying visually at night to graphically illustrate the dangers and provide detailed guidance for pilots.

The new video accompanies the publications, Visual flight at night accidents: what you can’t see can still hurt you and Accidents involving Visual Flight Rules pilots in Instrument Meteorological Conditions.

“While flying at night does have higher risks, by pilots educating themselves and remaining vigilant to the dangers, the safety of our skies can continue to improve,” Mr Dolan said.

Read more about Flying with reduced visual cues and the ATSB’s ongoing SafetyWatch priorities.

 
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Last update 10 July 2014