April 3, 2009
AOPA Air Safety Foundation President Bruce Landsberg addressed an audience at AERO’s “Dealing with the Regulators” panel discussion. The subject was accident trends involving technologically advanced aircraft (TAAs).
Landsberg reviewed data from a 2004 Air Safety Foundation accident study that compared TAA accident statistics with those for the total general aviation fleet. While TAAs and conventional airplanes may have similar dimensions and performance characteristics, Landsberg said that the situational awareness, systems redundancy, weather, airspace, and terrain aspects of flight are unaffected by fancy new glass cockpits. He emphasized that there is no substitute for good, basic stick-and-rudder skills, experience, and judgment in preventing accidents, and that glass cockpits by themselves do not automatically confer exceptional pilot skill.
For example, in spite of the wide availability of datalink weather in glass cockpits, Landsberg said, TAAs experience fatal weather-related accidents at a rate nearly three times that of the single-engine general aviation fleet at large—44-percent of fatal accidents versus 16 percent. Similar disparities between TAA accidents in the landing and go-around phases of flight were also reported. Most of these accidents involved pilots with less than 500 total hours of flight time.
At the other extreme, TAAs experienced no fuel mismanagement accidents.
To combat the TAAs’ safety issues, Landsberg suggested the increased use of new pilot training techniques centering on the accident trouble spots, the increased use of flight training devices, and the cultivation of a new cadre of experienced instructors highly familiar with TAA flight behavior and avionics systems.
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