Safety in numbers: Institute looks to build on success

January 12, 2012

General aviation pilots are arming themselves with knowledge, and the Air Safety Institute marked another year of growth, exceeding 1.8 million contacts with safety products and courses in 2011. That number suggests strong participation from the roughly 630,000 certificated pilots in the U.S., about half of those pilots holding a private pilot, sport pilot, student, or recreational certificate, according to FAA data. Air Safety Institute products and courses are made available to all pilots, regardless of AOPA membership.

While there are encouraging signs of progress— NTSB reported a slight decline in GA accidents in 2010—the GA safety record has plateaued in certain areas. Pilot-related causes, including VFR flight into IMC, takeoff and landing mishaps, and fuel exhaustion remain among the top causes of GA accidents, based on preliminary data being analyzed for the upcoming publication of the 2011 Nall Report.

The AOPA Foundation, the Air Safety Institute’s nonprofit parent, is dedicated to the proposition that pilot continuing education will lead to a reduction of preventable accidents. Air Safety Institute webinars and live seminars drew strong participation in 2011, with more than 40,000 pilots learning about aerodynamics, decision making, emergency operations, radio communications, and more. Online courses, including Real Pilot Stories and Accident Case Studies, and safety quizzes combined for more than 800,000 completions. The CFI to CFI newsletter was sent to all 90,000 flight instructors in the FAA database, and the Air Safety Institute renewed more than 11,000 CFI certificates through its in-person and online renewal programs.

The Air Safety Institute is dedicated to expanding that reach even further in 2012.

Education Director Paul Deres said that the Air Safety Institute will expand its electronic reach into social networking and mobile platforms, while continuing to develop and support award-winning online courses and programs.

The major causes of accidents have changed little over the years, and “we have to find more effective and creative ways of getting the same message out there,” Deres said. The institute also published its annual Joseph T. Nall Report, while receiving more than 50,000 queries to its online accident database.

The AOPA Foundation relies on tax-deductible donations to finance safety education, preservation of airports, improving the perception of GA, and growing the pilot population. “As a pilot, I believe that general aviation in America is nothing less than a national treasure,” AOPA Foundation President Bruce Landsberg said. “But to preserve this great gift for future generations, you and I and our fellow pilots must lead the way in keeping pilots safe and keeping our airports open.”

Landsberg said the connection between pilot education and increased safety is becoming increasingly clear as data is analyzed, and support from the aviation community is critical to building on that success.