WASHINGTON, D.C.—The FAA will undertake a new program to raise interest in general aviation safety with the central elements being to gather more information on causes of accidents, conduct meetings on the subject throughout the country, and zero in on where accident rates are higher than the norm. The goal is to reduce the rate of fatal accidents 10% over the next five years.
FAA Administrator Randy Babbit said Monday that the GA accident rate is down but there are areas that need special attention. Two of these are homebuilt aircraft and agricultural operations. Homebuilt aircraft fly only 5% of general aviation hours but account for 22% of the accidents, Babbit said.
The agency is scheduling 98 outreach events to talk with pilots about safety and to gather information. The first of these is scheduled for Sun ‘n Fun on April 2. These sessions hope to achieve the comfort level of hangar flying with pilots feeling comfortable talking about their training, checkouts, and experiences, FAA officials said, noting these are to be non-regulatory events. John Allan, flight standards service director, said FAA personnel can’t sit in offices and make regulations. “We need to get data from those involved,” he said. “We need to get to the root causes.”
The agency wants to determine the top 10 reasons for accidents and to focus in on them.
Another area where the program will focus is on flight instructors. FAA officials want to hear what students say about their instruction and checkouts. If a trend is found, Babbitt said, “we would go back to the flight instructors and say ‘you must focus more here.’”
Making the transition from one airplane to another is another area the program will look at. This includes transitioning to new technology and equipment. Babbitt said there are big gaps in what pilots learned to fly, are flying now, and new equipment. Many pilots have not flown aircraft with glass cockpits, for instance, and may need additional training during a checkout. This is true in homebuilt transfer of ownership, with the second owner not familiar with the particular characteristics of the aircraft, he said, noting there is a spike in accident rates based on ownership time.
All of GA’s alphabet groups are cooperating with the effort to reduce the fatal accident rate, Babbitt said. Officials from the Experimental Aircraft Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association and others are joining in the early stages of gathering data and to promote attendance at the events scheduled around the country.
Later this year the FAA will invite colleges and universities that have flight training to attend a conference where training techniques will be discussed.
Although not saying how much the initiative will cost, Babbitt said the real question is how much will it cost if the effort doesn’t go forward. The budget submitted by the President has enough for the program, Babbitt said. If the Congress sees fit to reduce available funds, then some other expenses must be cut. “We will find the money to do this,” he told General Aviation News.