AOPA Air Safety Foundation releases safety report about technically advanced aircraft

November 11, 2009

AOPA Air Safety Foundation releases safety report about technically advanced aircraft

Click to download report

The AOPA Air Safety Foundation (ASF) has published a special report for all pilots - those who currently fly technically advanced aircraft (TAA), and those who will do so in the future.

Titled Technically Advanced Aircraft Safety and Training, ASF's publication outlines a training syllabus, compares accidents of TAA and traditional aircraft, and includes National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) accident narratives, TAA articles from AOPA Pilot magazine, and Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) reports. The report finds that TAA are fundamentally sound but will require some different piloting approaches.

The FAA defines TAA as having at least a global positioning system (GPS), multifunction display (MFD), and an autopilot. Many pilots currently own or rent TAA, and the numbers are increasing. For 2004, 92 percent of newly manufactured general aviation (GA) airplanes were TAA.

"Pilots of light GA aircraft are now undergoing the transition that the airlines and corporate pilot did in prior decades," said Bruce Landsberg, executive director of ASF. "This report is designed to assist them with training and piloting suggestions to make the transition as smooth and safe as possible."

Although ASF's accident database includes all GA accidents from 1983 to the present, NTSB reports don't distinguish between accidents involving TAA and those of traditional aircraft. For the safety report, ASF compared the accidents of the Cirrus SR20 and SR22 versus Cessna 182 models 182S, 182T, and T182T. Based on typical equipment lists provided by the manufacturers, ASF determined them all to be TAA. The study revealed a total of 21 fatal accidents (12 Cirrus and 9 Cessna), or a fatal accident rate of 7.1 and 5.7, respectively, per 1,000 aircraft produced.

ASF also studied the differences between pilots who fly TAA and those who don't. Although TAA pilots had a higher average total time (2,413 hours vs. 2,030 hours), they had a lower average time in type (305 vs. 451 hours). ASF then studied the accident rates, comparing total time in type between pilots of TAA and non-TAA. The numbers show that a higher percentage of low-time pilots are having accidents in TAA.

As with most accidents involving traditional aircraft, those involving TAA are mostly pilot-related. Pilot error such as poor judgment, misinterpretations, misprogramming, and poor flight-control handling has always been an issue and is no different with TAA. "Poor judgment will always be poor judgment, regardless of the aircraft being flown," said Landsberg. A more in-depth study may be conducted as more TAA are introduced into the GA fleet.

ASF suggests new ways to train for flying these advanced aircraft. Training for nontraditional avionics in the traditional in-flight way is not optimal. Using technology such as CDs, DVDs, and online simulation will provide a more realistic training environment. Some aircraft and avionics manufacturers also offer individualized training for their customers.

The training syllabus outlined in the report focuses on home-based study to learn the technology. It's not intended to add additional hours to a pilot's training curriculum, but instead suggests a different type of training. This includes taking the time to become proficient with the on-board technology, using both home-based and ground study. ASF recommends such training, which is not mandated by FAA, for pilots who currently fly TAA or plan to in the near future.

To read the report, visit the AOPA Online Safety Center. Printed and bound copies may be ordered online for a small fee to cover duplication, shipping, and handling.

The AOPA Air Safety Foundation, the world's largest nonprofit GA safety organization, was founded in 1950 solely to help GA pilots improve flight safety. Since that time, the GA total accident rate has dropped by more than 90 percent despite a large increase in GA flight hours. ASF produces live seminars, online interactive courses, videotapes, written Safety Advisors, and other aviation safety materials for free distribution to all GA pilots.

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May 6, 2005