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From Flight Chops: Using a 'Defined Minimum Maneuvering Speed' to help prevent the most common fatal general aviation accidents

  •  By Dan Sobczak
  • Editor's note: This content does not constitute flight instruction. Consult a certified flight instructor in your area for proper flight instruction.

Before reading this blog post any further, consider the airplane you fly most often, and ask yourself this question:

Do you know the limit of the slowest speed allowed in each configuration for your airplane?

Don't look at your checklists. Don't look at your POH. Don't google it.

Do you know it?

Chances are, if you're an airline pilot, you know it.

If you're a general aviation pilot, you don't know it.

And this is part of the reason why we are still losing pilots in the general aviation ranks, according to CFI Dan Gryder.

Defined Minimum Maneuvering Speed

A recent video from Flight Chops highlighted a disparity between the professional pilot ranks and general aviation pilots.

This Flight Chops video -- "Fatal Loss of Control plane crash? Every 4 days! Airliner differences + GA's 4 big Failures" -- emphasizes why airline pilots do not make some of the same fatal mistakes that general aviation pilots do.

Steve Thorne, a.k.a. Flight Chops, flew to Atlanta, Georgia to take his biannual flight review with CFI Dan Gryder to learn why this is, and more about Gryder's theory on how this can be solved.

  • Watch Flight Chops video "Fatal Loss of Control plane crash? Every 4 days! Airliner differences + GA's 4 big Failures". Source: Flight Chops.

Gryder asked both airline and general aviation pilots the same set of four questions, and got startling different answers.

1. Is maneuvering speed a minimum or a maximum speed?

2. Do you know the limit of the slowest speed allowed in each configuration for your airplane?

3. If you're flying at 1,500' AGL and you let it get slow and stall, and spun, would you be able to recover it in time before hitting the earth?

4. Which is more important: a strong stall recovery skill set, or prevention of low speed scenarios through speed awareness?

We don't want to steal Flight Chops' thunder, so we won't provide the answers here. Be sure to watch the video to hear the answers to these questions.

But we do want to highlight here a couple of important learning points that Flight Chops and Gryder make. According to Gryder:

"The problem is we're still losing people in GA, and the airlines have a tool, a technique, and a method available to them that they're using every day, that is available to us. But we have to understand what that tool is, and we have to implement it."

General Aviation's fatal losses: the same four scenarios

Gryder comments that the bulk of general aviation's fatal losses come from the same four scenarios:

1. Loss of thrust on takeoff.

2. Messed up go-around.

3. Inadvertent IMC (after takeoff specifically).

4. Maneuvering in the traffic pattern.

The tool that can help reduce these types of accidents, according to Gryder, is DMMS, or "Defined Minimum Maneuvering Speed."

Again, watch this Flight Chops video to learn more about Defined Minimum Maneuvering Speed.

Lessons learned: Three key takeaways

Three critical points stood out to us as we watched this video:

1. The two very opposing opinions between airline pilots and general aviation pilots. Clearly there's a gap in what is being taught to general aviation pilots versus pilots in the airline ranks.

2. The "DMMS" indicator for general aviation pilots, as taught by Gryder in this video.

3. The approximate 6-second time span from engine failure to stall (assuming the pilot does not react immediately and with the appropriate response for the particular airplane being flown).

If general aviation had more of this standardized, foundational teaching among the GA pilot ranks that the airlines have, it can only help continue the downward trend of general aviation accidents.

As a post script, the 28th 'Joseph T. Nall Report' was released October 11, 2019 by the AOPA Air Safety Institute, which noted that general aviation fatal accidents declined in 2016 even as total hours flown increased.

That's good news. But we can do better, especially if we can teach more rigid standard operating procedures across all general aviation pilots, such as those that the airlines and military teach their own crews.

Stay sharp!
The Flight Chain App team

Flight Chain App and its companion blog are committed to reducing general aviation accidents, helping improve aviation safety, and growing the pilot population.

  • Dan Sobczak is the founder of, a mobile app that helps pilots learn from accident chains by making NTSB reports more convenient and easier to digest. Dan received his private pilot certificate in 2003.

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