The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and general aviation (GA) groups’ #FlySafe national safety campaign aims to educate the GA community on best practices in calculating and predicting aircraft performance, and in operating within established aircraft limitations.

Remember the lyric, “Get your motor runnin’…”? Well, it’s even more important to KEEP your motor running. The General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC) says inadequate engine maintenance has led to a high number of engine failures. This is not a good scenario when you are in flight.

Get to know your airplane, and your mechanic

Ideally, pilots and mechanics should work together to make sure the aircraft is operated and maintained properly. As a pilot, you should take an active role in maintenance by reviewing inspection results and discussing Airworthiness Directives and Service Bulletins with your mechanic.

Don’t ignore regular maintenance

Be sure to comply with all manufacturer-recommended service intervals:

  • Fifty-hour oil changes are recommended for most normally-aspirated piston engines.
  • Turbo-charged engines should undergo oil changes more frequently.
  • Oil filter inspection with each oil change will yield immediate feedback.
  • Investigate further if you find metal particulates in the filter.
  • Oil analysis can reveal a lot about engine health, but it works best when several samples create a trend.
  • It’s not a bad idea to do a compression check as well as to check magneto timing, spark plugs and the exhaust system every other oil change.

Keep your eyes open

Every service interval is an opportunity to give your aircraft a once-over. Look for leaks and stains in the engine compartment. Look for missing, loose, or broken hardware. Check the condition of hoses, belts, and baffles. Tires, brakes, and oleo struts should be checked as well.

Maintain safe flight

How we operate our engines has a lot to do with how long they’ll last. It’s actually harder on an engine if the airplane spends a lot of time sitting in a hangar, or worse, on the ramp. Regular operation keeps your engine components lubricated, which reduces potential corrosion.

  • Thermal shock can be very hard on engines, so be sure your engine has reached operating temperature before you take off.
  • Smooth, steady power changes are good for engine longevity. This is especially true for turbo-charged powerplants.
  • Be sure to strictly follow manufacturers’ recommendations if you are operating on the lean side of peak Exhaust Gas Temperature. It’s not worth it to save a gallon or so per hour if your engine overheats in the process.
  • Especially for turbos: Plan your descents with some power to keep your engine warm.

Monitor your engine performance

It’s true that most GA aircraft don’t have dedicated automatic flight data recording devices now, but there are still quite a few options available:

  • Turbine operators are accustomed to manually recording engine cycle and performance information for trend and engine health analysis.
  • You can also track engine power, fuel flow, oil temperature and pressure.
  • Panel-mounted GPS systems and many hand-held units are already capable of recording position, heading, speed and altitude.
  • Some engine monitors have recording capability, and many aircraft owners participate in oil analysis programs – a tool for gauging engine health and heading off expensive or disastrous problems.
  • Some aircraft are equipped with metallic chip detectors that can forecast engine and transmission failures, giving you the time you need to make a safe landing.

Basic instrumentation such as airspeed indicators, attitude indicators, angle of attack indicators, manifold pressure gauges, RPM gauges, and G-force meters all give immediate feedback as to whether design limitations have or are about to be exceeded. This information is available now, on every flight.

What is Loss of Control?

A Loss of Control (LOC) accident involves an unintended departure of an aircraft from controlled flight. LOC can happen because the aircraft enters a flight regime that is outside its normal flight envelope and may quickly develop into a stall or spin. It can introduce an element of surprise for the pilot.

Contributing factors may include:

  • Poor judgment/aeronautical decision making.
  • Failure to recognize an aerodynamic stall or spin and execute corrective action.
  • Intentional failure to comply with regulations.
  •  Failure to maintain airspeed.
  •  Failure to follow procedure;
  •  Pilot inexperience and proficiency.
  •  Use of prescription, over-the-counter, or illegal drugs or alcohol.

Message from FAA Deputy Administrator Mike Whitaker:

The FAA and industry are working together to prevent Loss of Control accidents and save lives. You can help make a difference by joining our Fly Safe campaign. Each month on, we’re providing pilots with a Loss of Control solution developed by a team of experts. They have studied the data and developed solutions – some of which are already reducing risk. We hope you will join us in this effort and spread the word. Follow #FlySafe on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I know that we can reduce these accidents by working together as a community.

Did you know?

  • Last year, 384 people died in 238 general aviation accidents.
  • Loss of Control is the number one cause of these accidents.
  • Loss of Control happens in all phases of flight. It can happen anywhere and at any time.
  • There is one fatal accident involving LOC every four days.

Learn more

The website has Notices, FAAST Blasts, online courses, webinars and more on key general aviation safety topics.

Check out “Check Engine!” in the May/June 2015 edition of FAA Safety Briefing to learn more about engine data management systems.