The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its new list of the 10 most critical transportation issues that need to be addressed to improve safety and save lives and GA figures prominently on the list.
“The NTSB’s ability to influence transportation safety depends on our ability to communicate and advocate for changes,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. “The Most Wanted List is the most powerful tool we have to highlight our priorities.”
NTSB began issuing an annual Most Wanted List in 1990. The just-released list is the first one produced under a revised format developed by the agency over the past several months in an effort to modernize and streamline the list.
This year’s list features 10 broad issue areas that the NTSB will highlight in its advocacy efforts during the next year. The aviation-related items are:
- Improve general aviation safety
- Promote pilot and air traffic controller professionalism
- Address human fatigue
- Require safety management systems
- Improve runway safety
- Require image and onboard data recorders
Here’s what the NTSB says about GA safety: “The United States has not had a fatal large commercial aviation accident since February 2009, but the story is very different in the world of general aviation (GA). Each year, hundreds of people — 450 in 2010 — are killed in GA accidents, and thousands more are injured. GA continues to have the highest aviation accident rates within civil aviation: about 6 times higher than small commuter and air taxi operations and over 40 times higher than larger transport category operations. Perhaps what is most distressing is that the causes of GA accidents are almost always a repeat of the circumstances of previous accidents.
“Reducing GA fatality rates requires improvements to the aircraft, flying environment, and pilot performance. Maintenance personnel need to remain current in their training and pay particular attention to key systems, such as electrical systems. Aircraft design should address icing. GA aircraft should also have the best occupant protection systems available and working emergency locator transmitters to facilitate timely discovery and rescue by emergency responders.
“But the best aircraft in the world will not prevent a crash if the pilot is not appropriately trained and prepared for conditions. GA pilots should take initial and recurrent training on the various weather information sources and learn what to do when they inadvertently encounter adverse weather. As aircraft become more sophisticated with glass cockpits, GA pilots need to be more than just familiar with the technology; they need to also understand how it can malfunction. An emergency is not the time to be checking a manual to figure out how to adjust the flight display. And, as the people responsible for passengers, GA pilots should make sure that every passenger has a seat and a restraint system, including children under the age of 2.”
GA advocates immediately responded to the list, including Bruce Landsbergh, president of the AOPA Foundation and its Air Safety Institute: “We agree with the National Transportation Safety Board – 450 deaths a year in general aviation accidents is too many. One is too many. The Air Safety institute looks forward to working with the FAA, industry, and pilots in practical ways to address this, but broad generalizations are, essentially, just that.
“There is an understandable tendency to compare GA with the airlines but in most cases, GA flight operations are different in so many ways that the comparison is meaningless,” he continued. “General aviation is too diverse, with too many differing skill levels, aircraft and types of operations to take such a monolithic view. And there is still room for improvement in training, equipment, air traffic control procedures and weather dissemination.
“The GA community will be better served by targeting specific educational opportunities, as the NTSB did recently. They recommended that our organization develop educational tools to help GA pilots instruct their passengers on emergency procedures such as using the radios and getting out of the aircraft. The Air Safety Institute is already in production on that educational program and plans to roll it out later this summer.”
General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) President and CEO Pete Bunce echoed Landsberg: “Safety is general aviation’s first priority and as a result, our industry has taken on a number of initiatives to further reduce general aviation (GA) accidents and incidents. Earlier this year, the GA industry re-launched the General Aviation Joint Safety Committee (GAJSC) in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The group has participants from the broad GA industry including manufacturers, operators, flight instructors, and associations with the NTSB as an observer. The GAJSC safety analysis team is co-chaired by GAMA and the FAA Office of Accident Investigation and Prevention. Through this effort, we are redoubling and focusing our efforts to prevent loss of control accidents and controlled flight into terrain.
“Improved data analysis and risk identification is critical to targeting and promoting proper interventions and prevent accidents,” he continued. “To facilitate data analysis, it is important to provide legal protection for voluntary data collection and safety management system (SMS) data and information. This was recognized by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood’s “Future of Aviation Advisory Committee” and GAMA has called for legislative action to provide protection of safety information.
“In addition, to ensure that the GA manufacturers can continually bring the newest and most advanced technology to even the lightest general aviation airplanes, such as glass cockpits, traffic collision avoidance systems, and real-time weather information, we will continue to work to ensure that FAA’s certification resources are sufficient and the certification process is made more efficient. Bringing these safety-enhancing products to every cockpit will lead to improvements in general aviation’s safety record. We look forward to strengthening our already close relationship with the NTSB in these areas as we work together to further improve the safety of general aviation operations.
More information about the Most Wanted List issue areas can be found at NTSB.gov