Airborne pilot deviations (PDAs) have occurred too often in the past and are generally not decreasing at an acceptable rate. Pilot deviations include failure to follow ATC instructions with regards to altitude, airspeed, and course instructions, along with airmen operating in airspace without appropriate clearance. Many other in-flight FAR violations are also categorized as airborne pilot deviations. These deviations have strong potential to lead to problems, including a reduction of safety, a slowing of capacity and FAR violation actions towards those airmen involved. A focused FAASTeam and industry collaborative mitigation strategy is in place that has resulted in a slight reduction in the number of pilot airborne deviations nationwide, which is a good thing. However the Western Pacific Region has two of the top ten states--California and Arizona, so we still have work to do.
PDAs can be broken down by the following phases of flight: Airspace violations; Altitude clearance violations; Course clearance violations; FAR's not complied with; Airspeed violations; Required equipment not operating; VFR flight into IFR; Careless or Reckless operation; Pilot not qualified for aircraft or flight conditions; Unauthorized low level flight.
Accidents in aviation consist of a series of events or errors which link together and result in injury or the loss of life and property. While most airborne pilot deviations do not result in an accident, there is generally loss of separation. Any time there is loss of separation there is a potential for catastrophic loss. This also causes re-routing and delays to be incurred within the national airspace system, which affects overall system capacity. All of these factors are disruptive to the safe and efficient movement of aircraft.
Operating aircraft within the national airspace system has become increasingly complex. In some areas of the country, airborne deviations are increasing due to a convergence of factors. Changes in technology such as RVSM, designed to increase capacity, may have lead to closer limit variation on altitudes which leads to increased busts of altitude assignments.
VIP TFRs also lead to a high number of airspace deviations. Since this type of restricted airspace comes and goes, airmen are often unaware that it is in effect during their flight. This use of restricted airspace is forecast to increase in the future to enhance national security.
Each year the likelihood of having airborne pilot deviations occur has been and is expected to remain frequent, due in part to the required complexities of the national airspace system. The increasing volume of traffic operating in all weather conditions has the potential to further exacerbate the problem. The severity of pilot deviations in most all cases results in a violation against the airman with no accident occurring. However, medium severity is indicated because the potential for catastrophic loss is still present.
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