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The FAA publishes Practical Test Standards for applicants for a certificate or rating. In those Practical Test Standards, or PTS, they dedicate a good portion of those standards to “Controlled Flight Into Terrain” or CFIT. This is such an important issue that the FAA puts special emphasis on it in the PTS requirements for a check ride. There have been numerous incidents where aircraft had gone out in marginal weather and ended up flying into terrain. The reason they call it controlled flight into terrain is because there is nothing wrong with the aircraft or the pilot, just that the aircraft was flown into terrain under normal control.
I found this video on YouTube.
It is a very unique incident because CFIT actually occurred, but the pilot and passengers were able to return home and live to tell the story. I would imagine this pilot will see some sort of action against his pilot certificate by the FAA. But the training value in this video is very good.
What is the way to avoid a situation like this one? Proper planning, understanding and sticking to personal minimums, and having the good sense to cancel the flight if weather, personal minimums, or aircraft capabilities don’t meet the requirements of the flight. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement to fly, even when weather is unfavorable, but the best pilots, and the ones that live the longest, are the ones who are willing to walk away from a flight if things aren’t right.
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