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Controlled Flight into Terrain (CFIT)

Short (Certificate) Courses for Pilots-in-Service

Min. Academic & Professional Level

Intermediate & PPL,CPL, ATPL Holders & Flight Instructors

Course Designed for:

PPL,CPL, ATPL Holders, Airlines & GA Pilot-in-Service, Flight Instructors of Flying Clubs & Flight Simulators

Short Course Modules:

Contents:

Module 1: Introduction to CFIT

  1. Overview of the course content.
  2. Understanding the significance of CFIT in aviation.
  3. Historical CFIT accidents and lessons learned.
  4. Significance of CFIT prevention in aviation safety.

Module 2: CFIT Risk Factors

  1. Terrain and obstacle awareness.
  2. Weather-related risks.
  3. Human factors contributing to CFIT accidents.
  4. Aircraft equipment and systems affecting CFIT.

Module 3: Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems (TAWS)

  1. Introduction to TAWS technology.
  2. TAWS modes and functionalities.
  3. Regulatory requirements for TAWS installation.
  4. TAWS training and usage.

Module 4: Weather and CFIT

  1. Weather phenomena leading to CFIT risks.
  2. Impact of visibility, clouds, and precipitation.
  3. Use of weather radar and forecasts for CFIT prevention.
  4. Pilots’ decision-making in adverse weather conditions.

Module 5: Human Factors in CFIT Prevention

  1. Pilot awareness and decision-making.
  2. Crew resource management (CRM) in CFIT prevention.
  3. Fatigue management and its role in CFIT incidents.
  4. Psychological aspects and situational awareness.

Module 6: Terrain and Obstacle Databases

  1. Importance of accurate terrain and obstacle data.
  2. Sources of terrain and obstacle databases.
  3. Database updates and currency.
  4. Crew responsibilities in verifying database accuracy.

Module 7: CFIT Prevention Techniques

  1. Terrain avoidance strategies.
  2. Altitude and flight path awareness.
  3. Use of ground proximity warning systems (GPWS).
  4. Applying safe altitudes and flight profiles.

Module 8: CFIT Training and Simulation

  1. CFIT training requirements for pilots and crew.
  2. Simulator training for CFIT scenarios.
  3. Practical exercises in CFIT prevention.
  4. Realistic CFIT scenarios and responses.

Module 9: Regulatory Compliance

  1. Regulatory agencies and CFIT-related guidelines.
  2. Compliance with international safety standards.
  3. Reporting CFIT incidents and near misses.
  4. Safety audits and inspections.

Module 10: Case Studies and Analysis

  1. Analyzing real CFIT accidents.
  2. Lessons learned from CFIT investigations.
  3. Role-playing exercises in CFIT scenarios.
  4. Improving safety through incident analysis.

An Overview:

Definition: Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) refers to an aviation accident in which an aircraft, under the control of the flight crew, unintentionally impacts terrain, obstacles, or water without prior detection. 

CFIT accidents often occur in conditions of reduced visibility, such as fog, low clouds, or at night, and they are typically the result of a combination of factors that lead to a loss of situational awareness.

Categories of Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) 

Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) accidents can be categorized based on various factors that contribute to the accident. These categories help aviation professionals and investigators better understand the underlying causes of CFIT accidents and develop targeted prevention strategies. Here are some different categories of CFIT accidents:

Weather-Related CFIT:

CFIT accidents in this category occur due to poor visibility caused by adverse weather conditions. Fog, rain, snow, low clouds, and reduced visibility can make it challenging for pilots to accurately judge their altitude and proximity to terrain.

Nighttime CFIT:

CFIT accidents at night pose additional challenges due to reduced visual cues. Lack of adequate lighting, loss of visual references, and spatial disorientation contribute to these accidents.

Instrument Approach CFIT:

These accidents happen during the approach phase when pilots are transitioning from instrument flight to visual flight. If the approach is not correctly executed or if there are navigation errors, the aircraft can descend into terrain.

Non-Precision Approach CFIT:

Non-precision approaches, which lack precise vertical guidance like glideslope, require careful altitude management. Incorrect descent rates or poor altitude monitoring can result in terrain impact.

Altitude Mismanagement CFIT:

This category involves accidents where the aircraft descends below the intended altitude due to misjudgment, incorrect altimeter settings, or navigation errors.

Descent Below Minimum Safe Altitude CFIT:

Accidents in this category occur when the aircraft descends below the minimum safe altitude for the area, often during visual flight conditions. This can happen due to navigation mistakes or failure to cross-check altitude.

Terrain Masking CFIT:

In this type of accident, terrain features or obstacles mask the view of the aircraft’s intended flight path, leading to a collision.

CFIT in Mountainous Terrain:

Accidents involving flight in mountainous areas present unique challenges. Misjudging altitude, underestimating terrain height, and navigating through valleys can result in CFIT accidents.

CFIT in Urban Areas:

Flying in or near urban environments with tall buildings and structures requires careful altitude management. Flight crews need to avoid descending too low while navigating through these areas.

Controlled Flight Below Published Approach Minimums CFIT:

These accidents occur when pilots continue an approach below the minimum altitudes specified on approach charts. This can happen due to pressure to complete the approach or other factors.

Unstabilized Approach CFIT:

If an approach is not stabilized within specific criteria, such as proper altitude and airspeed at a certain point, it can lead to unstable flight conditions that increase the risk of CFIT.

Navigation Error CFIT:

Accidents in this category are caused by errors in navigation, leading the aircraft off its intended flight path and into terrain.

Circumstances and Justifications:

CFIT accidents tend to occur when the flight crew’s awareness of their aircraft’s proximity to terrain or obstacles is diminished due to poor visibility, misinterpretation of instruments, navigation errors, or a lack of timely corrective actions. Some circumstances that contribute to CFIT accidents include:

Unfamiliar Terrain: Flying in an area with unfamiliar terrain or inadequate navigation aids can increase the risk of misjudging altitude and distance.

Poor Weather Conditions: Low visibility caused by fog, rain, snow, or other adverse weather can make it difficult for pilots to maintain accurate spatial orientation.

Miscommunication: Lack of effective communication between flight crew members can lead to misunderstandings about the aircraft’s position or intended flight path.

Automation Dependency: Overreliance on automated systems can result in a loss of manual flying skills and diminished situational awareness.

Navigation Errors: Errors in navigation, such as incorrect waypoints or headings, can lead to unintended deviations from the desired flight path.

Fatigue and Stress: Fatigued or stressed flight crews might experience impaired decision-making and reduced attention to crucial details.

Stages of CFIT Accidents:

Navigation and Planning: The flight crew establishes the route, sets waypoints, and plans the approach.

Flight Execution: The aircraft follows the flight plan. CFIT accidents typically occur during descent, approach, or landing phases.

Situational Awareness Loss: Factors such as poor visibility, misjudgment of altitude, or navigation errors lead to a loss of situational awareness.

Terrain Impact: The aircraft collides with terrain, obstacles, or water due to a lack of awareness, corrective action, or time to recover.

Theory and Examples:

  • CFIT accidents are often attributed to the “get-there-itis” mindset, where pilots might prioritize reaching the destination despite adverse conditions. The “cure” for CFIT is the “3 Cs”: Communication, Coordination, and Control. Proper communication between flight crew members, coordination of tasks, and maintaining control over the aircraft’s position are essential to preventing CFIT accidents.

Examples of CFIT accidents include:

  • Flying into a mountain or hillside due to misjudgment of altitude and distance in reduced visibility conditions.
  • Impacting obstacles like towers or power lines during low-level flight or approach to an airport.
  • Descending too early or too rapidly during a non-precision approach, leading to a premature terrain impact.

Investigation:

  • CFIT accidents are thoroughly investigated to identify the chain of events, contributing factors, and root causes. Flight data recorders, cockpit voice recorders, radar data, and other sources of information are used to reconstruct the accident sequence. The investigation aims to determine whether crew actions, equipment failures, weather conditions, or other factors played a role in the accident. The findings often lead to safety recommendations and procedural changes to prevent similar accidents in the future.
  • To mitigate the risk of CFIT accidents, pilots are trained to prioritize situational awareness, use available navigation aids and technologies effectively, adhere to proper descent and approach procedures, and make well-informed decisions based on the current conditions.

Course Modules:

Module 1: Introduction to CFIT
  1. Overview of the course content.
  2. Understanding the significance of CFIT in aviation.
  3. Historical CFIT accidents and lessons learned.
  4. Significance of CFIT prevention in aviation safety.
Module 2: CFIT Risk Factors
  1. Terrain and obstacle awareness.
  2. Weather-related risks.
  3. Human factors contributing to CFIT accidents.
  4. Aircraft equipment and systems affecting CFIT.
Module 3: Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems (TAWS)
  1. Introduction to TAWS technology.
  2. TAWS modes and functionalities.
  3. Regulatory requirements for TAWS installation.
  4. TAWS training and usage.
Module 4: Weather and CFIT
  1. Weather phenomena leading to CFIT risks.
  2. Impact of visibility, clouds, and precipitation.
  3. Use of weather radar and forecasts for CFIT prevention.
  4. Pilots’ decision-making in adverse weather conditions.
Module 5: Human Factors in CFIT Prevention
  1. Pilot awareness and decision-making.
  2. Crew resource management (CRM) in CFIT prevention.
  3. Fatigue management and its role in CFIT incidents.
  4. Psychological aspects and situational awareness.
Module 6: Terrain and Obstacle Databases
  1. Importance of accurate terrain and obstacle data.
  2. Sources of terrain and obstacle databases.
  3. Database updates and currency.
  4. Crew responsibilities in verifying database accuracy.
Module 7: CFIT Prevention Techniques
  1. Terrain avoidance strategies.
  2. Altitude and flight path awareness.
  3. Use of ground proximity warning systems (GPWS).
  4. Applying safe altitudes and flight profiles.
Module 8: CFIT Training and Simulation
  1. CFIT training requirements for pilots and crew.
  2. Simulator training for CFIT scenarios.
  3. Practical exercises in CFIT prevention.
  4. Realistic CFIT scenarios and responses.
Module 9: Regulatory Compliance
  1. Regulatory agencies and CFIT-related guidelines.
  2. Compliance with international safety standards.
  3. Reporting CFIT incidents and near misses.
  4. Safety audits and inspections.
Module 10: Case Studies and Analysis
  1. Analyzing real CFIT accidents.
  2. Lessons learned from CFIT investigations.
  3. Role-playing exercises in CFIT scenarios.
  4. Improving safety through incident analysis.
These modules provide a comprehensive understanding of Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) and its prevention, covering risk factors, technology, human factors, training, and regulatory compliance. The course aims to enhance safety in aviation by addressing this critical aspect of flight.