Controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) has long been identified as one of the most widespread but potentially preventable causes of fatal air accidents. Five years ago the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) took the lead in an industry-wide attack on CFIT and evidence last year suggests that that the campaign has had an impact.

When the FSF first set about bringing together an international task force in 1992, CFIT stood as the single biggest cause of fatalities in commercial aviation. The goal was to halve the rate of losses by the end of 1998 through an international programme of education and training.

In 1997, the safety figures appeared to be moving in the right direction. They showed that CFIT losses for large airliners and corporate jets had fallen by 60% from the rate of five years before.

The FSF campaign has been a collective effort from the start. The task force included 150 representatives from 24 airlines, five aerospace manufacturers and a host of key aviation organisations.

Although new technology has a crucial part to play, especially the strides being made in ground proximity warning systems (GPWS), the conclusion was reached that there was much that could be achieved through raising awareness among crews.

One of the most visible aids has been the CFIT pilot checklist. More than 30,000 copies have been distributed free to operators around the world, in six languages. Other materials have stress the importance of making an immediate response to GPWS warnings. Eight recommendations have been made to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). One has already been adopted and the others are pending.

Finally in 1997, the task force saw its work drawn together by Boeing into a full multimedia package, the CFIT Education and Training Aid, complete with the checklist and video.

The Awards judging panel agreed that the FSF initiative is playing an important part in a broad industry effort to publicise the dangers of CFIT, highlighting also the contribution made by enhanced GPWS recognised in last year's Awards.

Source: Flight International