General aviation pilots turned in a mixed safety performance in February, according to the monthly GA safety report produced by the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. ASF's report for February 2003 shows the total number of GA accidents during the month down slightly, to 187 from 188 in February last year. But there were more fatal accidents during the month (45) than during the same month a year ago (38).
ASF Executive Director Bruce Landsberg cautioned against using short-term movements shown on the monthly graphs to forecast trends. "These numbers are like daily temperature readings: They may vary significantly day-to-day, but the overall climate remains generally predictable," he said. "Statistically, the raw numbers explain very little. You need a 'common denominator,' such as accidents per 100,000 hours' flight time, to make sure you're comparing apples to apples."
For all of 2002, the rate of GA accidents was 6.57 accidents per 100,000 hours flown, while the rate of fatal GA accidents was 1.32 per 100,000 hours. Ten years earlier, in 1992, the rates were 8.51 accidents and 1.82 fatal accidents per 100,000 hours. That's approximately a 25-percent reduction in the rates of both total GA accidents and fatal GA accidents.
ASF compiles GA accident reports monthly, organized by type of flying, and posts graphs of the data on its Web site to give pilots near real-time safety feedback. The graphs are normally updated around the 25th of each month for the preceding month.
The report showed that there were significantly fewer accidents among GA business pilots in February, with only 3 accidents compared to 15 a year ago. The number of accidents involving corporate/executive flying was also down, while accidents related to flight instruction were down to 37 from 40 a year ago. Personal flying—traditionally the type of GA flying with the greatest number of accidents—accounted for 113 accidents last month, compared to 108 a year ago.
Late last year, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation developed a searchable NTSB accident database, which allows pilots to do GA safety research using a variety of variables. The foundation also offers a variety of free interactive online safety education courses for pilots.
ASF was chartered in 1950 to provide all GA pilots with safety research and education and produces a wide variety of GA safety publications, videos, live seminars, online interactive seminars, and Seminar-in-a-Box programs. It is supported primarily by donations from individual pilots; contribution opportunities are available online.