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Who’s in control?

A recent aviation incident involving a student pilot and instructor shows why it’s essential to have a positive exchange of flight controls during flight training.

The incident occurred when the student pilot and instructor were doing crosswind circuit training in a Victa 115 Airtourer. As the aircraft flared to land, a strong gust of wind blew it off the runway centreline to the left, and the aircraft bounced hard.

The student initiated a go-around, applying full power, but the aircraft still drifted further to the left. As the aircraft was not climbing, the instructor called “taking over” and the student handed over control. The instructor lowered the nose of the aircraft to gain airspeed.

The aircraft continued to drift further away from the runway centreline.

The student noticed the flaps were in the down position and, thinking it would assist, and without checking with the instructor, retracted the flaps to the up position.

There should never be any doubt about who is flying the aircraft.

The aircraft descended and about 100 metres past the threshold of the runway,it collided with the airport perimeter fence. After a further 20 metres, the aircraft flipped over the fence and came to rest upside down. The instructor and student exited the aircraft quickly through the broken canopy, as fuel was gushing from the fuel tanks. Both received minor injuries and the aircraft was substantially damaged.

Accident site of VH-MUV

Source: Aircraft operator

Safety message

It is important in flight training to have a positive exchange of flight controls. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has found that numerous accidents have occurred due to a lack of communication or misunderstanding regarding who had actual control of the aircraft, particularly between students and flight instructors. The FAA publication Aviation Instructor’s Handbook, includes a section on the Positive Exchange of Flight Controls. The handbook provides guidance to use for the positive exchange of flight controls

FAA positive exchange of flight controls

FAA positive exchange of flight controls

Source: US Federal Aviation Administration


Read the ATSB investigation report AO-2015-057


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Last update 19 November 2015