Right after Runway Excursions, Loss of Control In-flight (LOC-I) was the second category of airplane and helicopter accidents and the leading cause of fatalities in commercial aviation between 2010 and 2014. (IATA Safety Report 2014) (EASA Annual Safety Review 2013)
Loss of Control In-flight (LOC-I) refers to accidents in which the flight crew was unable to maintain control of the aircraft in flight, resulting in an unrecoverable deviation from the intended flight path.
While few in number, LOC-I accidents are almost always catastrophic; 97% of LOC-I accidents between 2010 and 2014 involved fatalities to passengers and/or crew. Over this period, 9% of all accidents were categorized as LOC-I. LOC-I accidents contributed to 43% of fatalities during the past five years (1,242 out of 2,541). There were six LOC-I accidents in 2014, all of which involved fatalities. Given this severity, LOC-I accidents represent the highest risk to aviation safety.
It is recognized that accidents are generally the consequence of a chain of events, and not the result of just one causal factor.
Analysis of LOC-I accident data indicated that LOC-I can result from engine failures, icing, stalls or other circumstances that interfere with the ability of the flight crew to control the motion of the aircraft. It is one of the most complex accident categories, involving numerous contributing factors that act individually or, more often, in combination. These contributing factors include latent conditions in the system, external threats to the flight crew, errors in the handling of those threats and undesired aircraft states from deficiencies in managing these threats or errors
There are multiple paths that lead to LOC-I situations, such as inadequate crew resource management, high fatigue levels among crew members, lack of manual handling skills in general and in particular on the edge of the flight envelope, over-reliance on automation and, last but not least, design issues.
By Laura Victoria Duque Arrubla, a medical doctor with postgraduate studies in Aviation Medicine, Human Factors and Aviation Safety. In the aviation field since 1988, Human Factors instructor since 1994. Follow me on facebook Living Safely with Human Error and twitter@dralaurita. Human Factors information almost every day