GA safety focus of high-level talks

May 16, 2013

Representatives of a coalition of aviation organizations, including AOPA, met May 13 with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and members of his senior staff to discuss general aviation safety.

While much progress has been made in the past two decades—general aviation accidents occurred at a rate of more than nine per 100,000 flight hours in 1993, declining to 6.51 in 2011, according to NTSB data—GA safety remains a priority. The NTSB has listed general aviation safety among its “most wanted” priority list for two years running, recently expressing “frustration” over the oft-repeated common causes of accidents, and pressing the FAA, and the aviation community, to do more.

More of that, and the details of new strategies to improve GA safety, were the topic of the conversation started May 13.

AOPA has worked for decades to improve aviation safety, producing a wide range of products including free safety education products praised by the NTSB that draw an audience of pilots as well: In 2012, the AOPA Foundation’s Air Safety Institute drew nearly 1.8 million participants to online safety courses, and thousands attended in-person safety seminars held throughout the country. Careful analysis of accidents and trends and the development of compelling videos and other products remain a core focus of the Air Safety Institute staff.

At the same time, AOPA has urged federal officials to balance the shared goal of safer skies with common sense, and avoid imposing regulatory and financial burdens that might have the opposite effect.

AOPA is participating in a variety of efforts with promise to significantly improve safety, including a comprehensive overhaul of aircraft certification regulations—the Part 23 Reorganization Aviation Rulemaking Committee—that could dramatically increase safety by significantly reducing the cost of state-of-the-art technology, putting it within reach of many more aircraft owners and operators.

Angle-of-attack indicators are one example of technology that the FAA is keen to see more widely deployed in the interest of safety.

AOPA has also taken a leadership role with the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee, an effort by the FAA and industry to find data-driven solutions to manage and reduce risk. The Air Safety Institute co-chairs the executive committee, and AOPA regulatory affairs staff co-chairs a working group analyzing loss-of-control accidents and developing safety recommendations.

AOPA strongly supports the work of this broadly representative body, and hopes it will serve as a clearinghouse for all initiatives to avoid redundant and ineffective efforts (or regulations).

AOPA is also a leader of the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC) Airman Testing and Certification Standards working group, which is spearheading an effort to improve pilot training and testing.

While these efforts have promise to produce similar, and perhaps even more dramatic advances in GA safety over the coming 20 years, AOPA is also working to make sure regulators understand that while pilots (including AOPA’s nearly 400,000 members) are eager to limit losses, there are limits to what the flying public can afford and tolerate. General aviation plays a vital role in the nation’s economy and transportation infrastructure, and freedom to fly cannot survive the imposition of costly new burdens, or requirements that otherwise put a GA cockpit out of reach.