IN-FLIGHT LOSS of control is now the biggest single killer of airline passengers, replacing controlled flight into terrain (CFIT), according to a recent Boeing analysis of the subject.

Boeing's chief engineer for aeroplane safety engineering Paul Russell says that from 1990 to 1994, 1,056 people died in loss-of-control accidents and 1,004 in CFIT accidents.

Boeing emphasises that Russell's observations are not based on any new figures or information. Highlighting the issue, however, may signal an imminent industry-led initiative similar to that directed at CFIT.

Three major loss-of-control accidents are cited by Russell: the United Airlines Boeing 737-200 event at Colorado Springs, USA in 1991; the China Air Lines Airbus A300-600 accident at Nagoya, Japan in April 1994; and the USAir 737-400 crash at Pittsburgh, USA in September 1994.

All three involved dramatic departures from normal flight attitudes: crew misunderstanding of control mode was a major factor in the Nagoya accident, but the causes of the other two incidents remain unknown. This increases the industry incentive to find ways of preventing the occurrences.

Already, some carriers such as United incorporate recovery from unusual attitudes in their simulator continuation training. The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) at United says, however, that there are distinct limits to what can be achieved in simulation, and that it wants a feasible, realistic means of "extreme attitudes" training to be developed.

Source: Flight International