by Rick Braunig
Manager, Aviation Safety & Enforcement
Published in Midwest Flyer – Dec 2016/Jan 2017
Idon’t know how many people are still flying that remember seeing Ken Patz and Verdon Kleimenhagen doing safety seminars throughout Minnesota. Probably more of you remember Mark Schreier, Steve Szymanski, Marlan Perhus and me making the circuit, but even that is more years back than I care to talk about. The point is, we have a long history of trying to affect the aviation accident rate.
We have data that suggests that when we do safety seminars, we are preaching to the choir. The people that attend have the right attitude about safety and they are not the ones having accidents. Now that is not to say safety seminars are worthless…we all need to sharpen our saws occasionally and there are always changes in equipment, regulations and processes that we need to communicate. We also like to get out and hear from the pilot community. We have a lot of respect for pilots that give up their free time to come talk with us. We want to hear about your challenges and those things that are causing you concern.
Still, we would like to have the general aviation accident rate not be 10 times worse than the airlines, so we have started a new initiative titled “Toward Zero Deaths” (TZD) in Aviation. The highway side of MnDOT has been working on a Toward Zero Death initiative for a number of years now and they have data that shows their actions have reduced the crashes and fatalities on our highways. We would like to be able to have a similar impact on the GA accident rate.
There is an old saying that goes something like “Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.” Clearly we have been doing safety seminars and that is not bending the graph downward. The accident and death rates appear to fluctuate with what a statistician might describe as normal variation. To move toward our goal, we need to look at what other things we might do to have an impact, so we’ve pulled together a team of some of our sharpest folks and we are partnering with the FAA and looking for other partners that would like to help.
We are looking at the data, and there is good data on the causes of accidents, who is having accidents by certificate type and flight hours, and mission. Until recently, the location data for accidents wasn’t very good. GPS is improving that, just as it has impacted the rest of aviation. We want to take a deeper dive into the data to better understand our target audience and the locations where the need is greatest.
Then we have to try new tactics to see what works. Here is where we are looking beyond the aviation industry to others like our TZD folks on the highway side to learn more about the things they have had success with and where they are going. Additionally, we have some ideas that are aviation specific that haven’t been tried. We are open to all ideas that come forward. We realize that this isn’t going to be easy, but we think it is important work and we are inspired by the results TZD has achieved on the highway side.
If you’d like to join the effort or just throw your two cents worth in on the subject, we’d love to hear from you. Drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, and if I can’t get back to you, someone else on our team will.