May 1, 2012
By Jim Moore
A slight increase in general aviation accidents coupled with a larger increase in hours flown (based on FAA projections) add up to a modest decline in the 2011 accident rate, according to NTSB data released April 27.
The data show an increase in GA accidents, from 1,439 in 2010 to 1,466 in 2011. There were 263 fatal GA accidents in 2011, down from 268 in 2010. Pending the arrival of more refined estimates of hours flown, the NTSB uses FAA activity forecasts, not the actual number of hours flown, to calculate accident rates. The agency also uses a broad definition of GA that includes ultralights, gliders, weight-shift control aircraft, and balloons.
Based on the NTSB criteria and the FAA forecasted hours flown, the GA accident rate declined to the lowest rate per 100,000 flight hours—6.53—seen since 2005. The fatal GA accident rate declined from 1.23 per 100,000 hours in 2010 to 1.17 in 2011, according to NTSB data, nearly matching the 20-year low of 1.16 reported in 1999.
GA flights continue to account for most civil aviation accidents and most of the fatalities.
The Air Safety Institute, a division of the AOPA Foundation, is analyzing a small decrease in the number of accidents involving noncommercial fixed-wing flights, 1,150 compared to 1,160 in 2010, along with a slight drop in the number of helicopter accidents—97 noncommercial helicopter accidents compared to 99 in 2010; and 33 commercial helicopter accidents, compared to 35 in 2010.
The number of fixed-wing accidents involving crop dusters increased from 56 to 77, and Part 135 cargo and charter flights saw an increase from 28 to 43 accidents.
The Air Safety Institute launched a variety of new products in 2010, including the ASI Flight Risk Evaluator which logged 64,000 visits in 2010, and a variety of safety seminars and webinars that drew 40,000 pilot visits. Preliminary data suggest participating pilots are less likely to be involved in accidents, possibly a reflection of that group’s conscientious approach to aviation in general. Air Safety Institute employees are analyzing data in detail for the upcoming edition of the Joseph T. Nall Report , a comprehensive analysis of accidents that has influenced pilot training.
AOPA Online Associate Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot who enjoys competition aerobatics.
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