Controlled Flight Into Terrain

Controlled Flight Into Terrain

The GAJSC chartered a working group focused on mitigating the risk of controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) in early 2018. The working group completed its recommendations about how to mitigate the risk of fatal CFIT accidents early 2019 following which the GAJSC has approved six new Safety Enhancements (SE) that have been added to the joint-industry/FAA safety portfolio for general aviation. An additional CFIT SE was approved in 2020 related to the risk of Unintended Flight Into IMC (UIMC) resulting in a CFIT accident.

The technical report generated by the CFIT working group is available on the GAJSC website HERE.

A summary overview of the risks associated with Controlled Flight Into Terrain and the work of the CFIT working group was presented in the November/December 2020 FAA Safety Briefing Magazine (link) and the November 2020 Safety Enhancement (SE) Topic of the Month.

Recent Outreach about CFIT Risk Mitigation:



51 Augmented Visual Technology for GA: Encourage GA pilots and operators to equip and utilize Enhanced Vision System (EVS)/Synthetic Vision System (SVS) technology to enhance situational awareness with respect to surrounding terrain.
52 WINGS Program Overhaul: FAA to overhaul and develop a plan for continual improvement of the FAA Pilot Proficiency Program (WINGS) to make it more user-friendly and dynamic. aspects of the current WINGS program’s automation are not user-friendly, especially for tablet and smartphone users. To encourage greater use of the program and reach more pilots, the CFIT working group recommends refreshing the program’s automation so that it is more user friendly and will work easily on all user devices. In addition, the working group recommends reviewing/updating the program’s training content to ensure it is all up to date and includes CFIT-specific information from the CFIT Working Group’s efforts.
53 Pressure to Complete a Mission: To identify opportunities for improving awareness of the need to mitigate mission completion pressure on piloting, including sources and types of pressures, and the impact on decision-making. External pressures, while difficult to anticipate, can influence a pilot’s aeronautical decision-making, causing distraction and potential deviation from SOPs. The SE recommends conducting a review of existing measures intended to address pressure to complete a flight, and identifying new opportunities for improved education and outreach to the flying community on the importance of managing pressure.
54 Terrain Awareness Warning System for GA, Addressing Time-Limited Inhibit, and Future Auto Ground Collision Avoidance: Improve TAWS capabilities and algorithms to better protect pilots operating in areas with challenging terrain, and develop additional safety protections to prevent the permanent inhibition of nuisance TAWS alerts during a terrain-critical flight.

RTCA Special Committee (SC) 231: Recommendations about Terrain Awareness and Warning Systems (TAWS) for GA

56 Unintended Flight Into IMC: FAA and Industry to revise teaching and training the UIMC escape response maneuver to include an initial climb before any heading change.

AOPA Air Safety Institute Online Course: Weather Wise – VFR Into IMC (June 2021)

AOPA Air Safety: VFR into IMC Avoidance & Escape – Resource Center (April 2022)

58 Approach Guidance in Night/Mountainous VFR: To further prevent controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) accidents, the FAA along with pilot organizations, flight instructor refresher course (FIRC) providers, and training providers should conduct an education campaign and/or develop learning modules educating the instrument-current pilot community of the safety benefits of backing up a nighttime VFR approach with lateral and vertical navigation guidance, particularly in mountainous terrain.

Safety Topic of the Month: November 2018

The CFIT working group’s accident analysis also endorsed expanded weather camera services, which resulted in an update to SE-12 (see, SE-12-R1).