Homebuilt accident rate drops 30%

OSHKOSH, Wis. — Heightened safety efforts by the aviation community and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) are showing positive results, as fiscal year 2013 figures from the FAA indicate that fatal accidents in amateur-built aircraft in the U.S. declined by 30% when compared to fiscal year 2012.

The totals, which include accidents during the 2013 federal fiscal year from Oct. 1, 2012, through Sept. 30, 2013, showed that fatal accidents in amateur-built aircraft declined from 50 in FY2012 to 35 over the past 12 months.

In addition, fatal accidents in all experimental category aircraft — which includes those in experimental/exhibition and light-sport aircraft subcategories — dropped from 73 to 55, a 25% decline.

These figures meet the FAA’s “not-to-exceed” annual accident totals that are part of the agency’s 10-year accident reduction initiative, EAA officials note.

“This is very good news and leaves us cautiously optimistic that many of EAA’s safety initiatives are beginning to take hold,” said Sean Elliott, EAA’s vice president of advocacy and safety. “The goal is to promote the best training possible that will help pilots be better prepared and educated, and avoid some of the most common accident causes.”

Building on EAA’s Technical Counselor and Flight Advisor programs, EAA’s initiatives over the past year included a focus on transition and recurrent training in amateur-built aircraft, as well as additional published information from EAA contributors who have strong flight-testing backgrounds.

Particular emphasis was on initial flight testing of amateur-built aircraft and transition training.

While the accident totals are available at this time, the FAA will take up to two years to compile and analyze data that will determine the accident rate – the comparison of total accidents to the number of hours flown, EAA officials noted. However, the 2013 accident totals for the entire general aviation community remained approximately the same as in 2012, which gives an indication that total hours flown over the past 12 months have not changed greatly.

“Everyone must realize that we are already dealing with very small numbers here, so even a handful of accidents can cause significant percentage fluctuations in the annual total,” Elliott said. “The actual number of fatal amateur-built aircraft accidents, for example, is already below the yearly U.S. fatal incident total for those who are scuba diving, horseback riding, or even struck by lightning. Regardless, we will continue to find and promote more ways to enhance aviation safety.”

For more information: EAA.org, FAA.gov


  1. Bluestar says

    Kent, well said, that’s exactly why there’s a hypothetical decrease of 30%, first flights, as well as being unfamiliar with a new purchase…. The higher cost associated with flying has decrease the number of breakfast and hamburger flights too.

  2. Greg W says

    “The actual number… is already below the yearly U.S. fatal incident total for those who are scuba diving, horseback riding, or even struck by lightning. Regardless, we will continue to find and promote more ways to enhance aviation safety.” That statement should cause the argument that we are “safe enough” for what is supposed to be a free society. The alphabets especially EAA will keep calling on us to do more and follow their programs to reduce the accident numbers. I would not be surprised if it were proposed that a “qualified” test pilot is required or mandatory simulator training (perhaps in lieu of a 3’rd class med.) Soon we can all be very safe “flying” a simulator in a virtual world, after all no one is injured when the sim. crashes just reset and go. The experience is even better than real flying we could still land at Meigs!, with an Airbus!, with out a medical!, what’s not to like. Just be as safe as you can, and get out and fly while we are still alowed to by the “powers that be”.

    • Tom says

      Good comments Greg. The key words are “free society”. Statistics are just statistics and are not an excuse for the government to “take action” to somehow protect us from ourselves but sadly that’s what has too often happened – e.g. law maker crashes and isn’t immediately found so now ELT’s are mandatory, etc. etc. etc.

  3. Kent Misegades says

    OK, let’s get real. Statistically it is near impossible to achieve a 30% drop in one year, unless there are other factors here. For instance, how many first-flights were there in fiscal 2013 vs 2012? We know that the majority of accidents occur in the first flight of a newly-completed, or a newly-acquired homebuilt. One needs to include this factor in the statistics. Having run one of the largest EAA chapters from 2009-2012 (EAA1114) with many builders, I saw nothing change from EAA headquarters to improve first flight safety, other than unrealistic goals in response to the FAA’s ridiculous demand for zero fatalities. Including also here the claim of a 25% drop in the number of fatalities in all experimental aircraft is also misleading. For homebuilts, one needs to look at fatalities per flight hours. People are flying far less, so the accident rate per flight hour has likely not dropped much, if at all. This 25% also includes warbirds and showplanes. Airshows are way down, thanks to the terrible economy, thus airshow accidents are down. If anyone is going to pat themselves on the shoulders over these statistics, they need to first provide more details on the true causes to the improvements. Otherwise it is nothing more than another Polly Anna pronouncement from the alphabets.

  4. says

    “Say Earl, don’t worry bout that weight and balance nonsense – who cares if we’re 225 lbs over gross – what-cha mean you never hand propped a bird before – no chalks – get in and hold the brakes, and Vern, make yourself – useful hold the tail down – watch me prop this sucker!”

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