APS Featured Article
Lessons Learned: 180 Seconds

Lessons Learned: 180 Seconds to Impact

LOCI-I EscalationThe following article by APS instructor pilot Clarke ‘Otter’ McNeace is featured in the USAIG Premium on Safety newsletter, issue 24:

Yes, this article is about your last 180 seconds on earth.  It’s about the time after which you, your crew, and your passengers will never enjoy another beautiful sunrise this side of death.  Ok, it may sound a bit dramatic but is it really?  I mean when you think about the fact that every flight you take could be your last, it’s very sobering.  Let me ask you. if you knew the last 180 seconds of your life was during your next flight but you had the ability to break the chain of events leading to the impact and stop the clock, when would you want to intervene?  Would you want to intervene at the 60 second mark or 180 second mark or before the flight even starts?  If you’re like me, you would want to intervene as early as possible.  If there is one thing I’ve learned after 38 years of flying and 14,000+ flight hours is that knowing something earlier is way better than later!

So what’s up with 180 seconds?

“180 seconds to impact” is actually an arbitrary but appropriate amount of time chosen to help us visualize a potential series of events that will happen on a fatal flight resulting in Loss of Control-Inflight (LOC-I).  Fatalities due to LOC-I is now over twice that of the number two causal factor, Controlled Flight into Terrain (CFIT) and our “180 second window” re-orients our mind to the time-critical but realistic series of events leading to a loss of the airplane.  As we will explain, in certain situations leading to aircraft upsets, the window for correction may be less than 180 seconds. And once an undesired aircraft state evolves into an actual aircraft upset, the window of action before disaster is much shorter indeed.

When we talk about “Loss of Control-Inflight”, most of us experienced pilots immediately dismiss the idea that we could possibly “lose control” of our aircraft or that our aircraft could be “unrecoverable” in a loss of control event.   I, personally, don’t have a problem with that “confident” attitude as long as it’s based on realistic expectations of your discipline, skills, and competencies as an aviator.  In my current experience as a full-time upset prevention and recovery training (UPRT) instructor pilot, having trained hundreds of professional pilots in an all-attitude capable aircraft, I find the vast majority of pilots who arrive ready for training believed they were competent but found out they were actually “confidently incompetent.”

A “competent” aviator will realize that numerous events, either foreseen or unforeseen, can lead to an unrecoverable situation.  The causal factors leading to a fatal accident may begin 180 seconds prior to impact, 120 seconds, or even 60 seconds prior to takeoff.  In any case something in the process of flying the aircraft failed to either prevent or recover the aircraft within our arbitrary but time-critical “180 second window.”  It is simply the case that a well trained aviator can visualize how all events, foreseen and unforeseen, during a flight can eventually lead to our  “180 second window”…


180 Seconds PDF

To read the full article, download the USAIG newsletter: USAIG Premium on Safety, Issue 24, 2017










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