Fatal GA Accident Rates… Better, But Not Quite There Yet

Published in Midwest Flyer – December 2017/January 2018 issue

In late August 2017, the 26th Joseph T. Nall Report was released. This report is a review of general aviation (GA) accidents for the most recent year where essentially complete data was available. In this case, the year was 2014. The report is published by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Air Safety Institute.

The good news is, there was a 3% decrease in the number of fatal GA accidents over the previous year (2013). The bad news is, there were still 229 fatal GA accidents that caused 354 individual fatalities. According to AOPA Air Safety Institute Executive Director Richard McSpadden in his Publisher’s View in the Nall Report, “Overall, the results indicate that the significant improvements and historically low accident rates registered in 2013 ‘proved not to be a one-time statistical anomaly.’” He added, “Across the general aviation community, we can take pride that our collaborative efforts appear to be having a positive, sustained impact.”

The report went on to say that comparing year to year, GA accident causes generally do not vary significantly. Approximately 75% of all GA accidents are pilot-related. The report states that 20% of those accidents are fatal. The pilot-related accidents referred to occurred during landing, takeoff and climb, maneuvering at low altitude, and issues with fuel mismanagement. It is interesting to note that according to the Nall Report, fuel-mismanagement accidents were up 10% over the previous year.

Executive Director McSpadden said, “… there is more work to do and further improvements are well within our capability. Troubling and stubborn accident categories remain. The wide discrepancy between pilot-related and other types of accident causes and the notable differences in accident rates between commercial and personal flying illustrate that further improvements in general aviation safety are needed and achievable.” McSpadden continued, “The overwhelming majority of these accidents are avoidable, so if we can convince more pilots to access safety information, we can drive the accident rate even lower, and save lives.”

The Air Safety Institute also released a statistical summary of the Nall Report’s data. Their report is called the 2015-2016 GA Accident Scorecard. The summary report notes that “after arresting a seven-year decline, noncommercial fixed-wing flight time increased more than 5% in 2015, while the rate of accidents remained at the low level achieved the previous year. The number of fatal accidents declined by two.”

The report goes on to say, “In 2016, there was a 3% increase in accidents, but fatal accidents declined from 20% of the total to 16%. For the fourth straight year, 2016 had fewer than 1,000 noncommercial fixed-wing accidents, of which fewer than 200 were fatal, “levels not previously seen in the post-World War II era. There were 156 (sic..fatal accidents) in 2016, 6% below the previous record low of 167 recorded three years earlier.”

So the good news is, we are doing better, but we are not quite there yet, at zero deaths!

Think safety first and always.

For copies of the Nall Report go to  https://www.aopa.org/training-and-safety/air-safety-institute/accident-analysis/joseph-t-nall-report

For copies of the GA Scorecard, go to:  http://download.aopa.org/advocacy/0822_GA_scorecard.pdf

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