Preliminary statistics announced by the National Transportation Safety Board March 26 reveal that 2001 was the safest year ever for general aviation, says the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. General aviation (which is all non-airline and non-military flying) experienced fewer accidents than any time since recordkeeping began in 1938.
NTSB figures showed the number of general aviation accidents dropped by more than six percent from 2000 to 2001. Total accidents declined from 1,838 to 1,721 (down 6.4 percent), and fatal accidents dropped from 343 to 321 (6.4 percent).
According to NTSB estimates, general aviation flew fewer hours in 2001; 26.2 million hours compared to 29.1 million hours in 2000. Because of those estimates, the accident rates increased slightly. However, ASF noted that flight hour estimates are frequently readjusted by the NTSB, so the accident rates for 2000 and 2001 could change in the future.
Based on the current flight hour estimates, the fatal accident rate increased slightly from 1.18 to 1.22 accidents per 100,000 hours flown. The total accident rate for general aviation aircraft increased slightly from 6.33 accidents per 100,000 flight hours in 2000 to 6.56 accidents in 2001. However, the same total accident rate was 77.83 in 1946 and 18.10 in 1970, illustrating the continued long-term improvement in GA safety.
"This minor rate increase doesn't indicate a change in the overall GA safety picture," said Bruce Landsberg, executive director of the Air Safety Foundation. "The safety improvement trend continues. We will continue to concentrate our safety education efforts in areas to reduce the accident numbers even more, such as spatial disorientation, weather, and midair collisions. Those efforts are clearly reflected in the reduced number of GA accidents in 2001.
"A six-percent drop in the total number of general aviation accidents in 2001 is outstanding," Landsberg continued. "There is good news in flight training where the totals for instructional fatalities and fatal accidents were also lower."
Analysis of Air Safety Foundation databases, which are culled from NTSB accident reports, showed that while the total of instructional flying accidents rose slightly from 261 to 264 in 2001, fatal instructional accidents declined by almost 26 percent. There were 23 fatal flight training accidents in 2001, compared to 31 the year before.
Midair collisions were down a noteworthy 68.4 percent from 19 in 2000 to just six in 2001. Fatal midair accidents were down 60.0 percent from 10 to four last year. (The AOPA Air Safety Foundation conducted more than 100 "Collision Avoidance" seminars last year.)
For personal flying in 2001, total accidents were down 69, from 1,156 to 1,087, a 6.0-percent improvement, but the number of fatal personal flying accidents increased by two, 222 compared to 220 the previous year.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation has provided research and pilot education since 1950, fostering the continued improvements in general aviation safety. Well known for its coast-to-coast safety seminars in the United States, ASF is now extending safety training with interactive, Web-based programs, making safety education more readily available to pilots around the globe.
ASF's Runway Safety program was developed to reduce runway incursions and improve the safety of airport ground operations. And the SkySpotter TM weather safety course teaches pilots how to formulate and deliver the highest value pilot reports (pireps) on cross-country flights to provide timely weather information, which is used by other pilots when planning a trip and to improve weather forecasting.
Operation Airspace 2002 reviews airspace designations, weather considerations, temporary flight restrictions, thorough flight planning, and how to react if intercepted by patrolling fighter jets.
Up-to-date information about ASF seminars, clinics, publications, and more can be found online.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation is the largest private, nonprofit organization in the United States dedicated to general aviation safety research, continuing pilot education, and training. The foundation is funded largely by tax-deductible contributions from individual pilots.