GA continues on NTSB most wanted list

WASHINGTON, D.C. — General aviation continues on the ‘‘10 most wanted” list issued by the National Transportation Safety Board, but GA organizations point out strides made in advancing the safety rate.

The general aviation accident rate has remained relatively steady over the past 10 years at 6.8 per 100,000 flight hours. However, components of general aviation — personal, training, business, etc. — have changed. In the past decade, personal flying accidents have increased 20% and fatal accidents 25%, according to NTSB officials.

NTSB continues to investigate about 1,500 GA accidents each year. The agency says it sees similar instances in many accidents. In many cases, NTSB said, pilots do not have the adequate knowledge, skills, or recurring training. New glass cockpits bring a new layer of complications for pilots.

NTSB officials said human error in general aviation accidents is not solely a pilot problem. Aircraft maintenance workers should also be required to undergo recurrent training to keep them up to date.

Officials from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association acknowledged the NTSB report, but stressed the gains made in safety and the programs that group has presented over the years and are continuing to give. Association officials pointed out GA fatalities decreased in the past decade from 596 to 444 in 2011. That is a decrease of 25.5%.

Bruce Landsburg, president of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation and Air Safety Institute, said AOPA has been a leader in the study and prevention of accidents. The training efforts reached 1.9 million people last year. The organization, foundation, and institute have worked closely with the NTSB, and developed many of their safety programs based on the government recommendations.

The Experimental Aircraft Association has a variety of programs and new partnerships with AOPA and other organizations to lower the accident rate. “Everyone agrees that safety is a never-ending priority,” said Sean Elliott, vice president of advocacy and safety. “That is why EAA has been so active with other organizations, type clubs pilot groups, manufacturers, and government agencies,” he added. “We maintain that education is a far better way to improve safety than regulation.”

“EAA has worked with NTSB, FAA, and other agencies to find the ways that are the most effective for pilots to be aware of safety and make that part of every flight,” Elliott said.

Business flying continues to rack up high safety marks. Officials with the National Business Aviation Association said flying is one of the safest modes of transportation, and the safety record for business aviation is comparable to that for the airlines. Noting the data-driven analysis by the NTSB is helping to target areas of general aviation, NBAA said it is ready to work with the NTSB and others on effective ways to keep building on the safety record of business aviation. Association officials said it will continue to produce and disseminate information to encourage safety best practices, adding, “we know NBAA members will continue to put safety at the center of everything they do.”

National Air Traffic Controllers Association’s President Paul Rinaldi said that group is pleased the NTSB dropped from its list fatigue and pilot-and-air-traffic-controller professionalism. “Our sole focus is safety of the system,” he said. Dropping that from the list, he added, validates the progress NATCA and the FAA are making on both issues.

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Charles Spence is General Aviation News’ Washington, D.C., correspondent.

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