Airborne Pilot Deviations

What is an airborne pilot deviation?  The actions of a pilot that result in the violation of a Federal Aviation Regulation while in flight. Such deviations could result in a loss of separation between your airplane and another or with the next mountain peak! Why do pilot deviations happen? Pilots don’t start off the day by saying, “Today I’m going to go out and commit a pilot deviation.” We don’t say, “I’m going to fly through some airspace that I’m not supposed to.” No, pilot deviations occur because of poor technique, inattention, or failure to plan properly. The FAA Safety Team wants airmen to be aware of this problem, and encourages pilots to increase their awareness and skills so that aviation safety is enhanced.

Types of IFR Deviations (Listed in order)

  • Altitude violations – Failure to maintain the assigned altitude
  • Course clearance violations
  • Airspeed violations
  • Missing a compulsory reporting point

What can be done about it?

  • First, have a method to remember and record directions and/or clearances from ATC, and second, execute the action. For example,
    • Write it down,
    • Input it into an altitude alerter or avionics system, or
    • Index the heading bug
  • Use current directories, charts, approach plates, and data bases
  • If ever in question, call ATC and confirm

Types of VFR Deviations (Listed in order) 

  • Airspace violations – Flying into airspace such as class B, C, D, prohibited, restricted or TFR’s without communication and/or clearance
  • Flying VFR into IMC conditions
  • Low level flight
  • Required aircraft equipment is not installed or operating

What can be done about it?

  • Improve flight planning – Know the route and requirements
  • Have only current directories, charts and data bases onboard
  • Obtain better/complete weather briefings
  • Obtain the NOTAM’s and TFR’s for your route of flight

Plan ahead and be precise in your preparation for flight and in your actions while operating the aircraft. Don’t become complacent or make assumptions. Always be alert and aware and continually processing the situation. Ask yourself, “Do I really have everything correct?”

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