The AOPA Air Safety Foundation's just-released 2005 Joseph T. Nall Report shows a historic low for aviation accidents in 2004. The report, funded by the Emil Buehler Trust, is the nation's first authoritative look at the general aviation accident rate for the preceding year.
According to the report, there were 6.22 total accidents and 1.2 fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours for 2004. For 2003, the accident rates were 6.77 and 1.37, respectively.
"Although the accident rate is down this year, there is still work to be done," said Bruce Landsberg, executive director of the Air Safety Foundation. "During the 15 years that the foundation has published the annual Nall Report, pilot error continues to top the list of accident causes. This year, based on an increase in weather-related accidents, we focused on weather accidents and pilot decision making when in hazardous weather conditions."
In 2004, nearly 25 percent of the 45 fatal weather-related accidents involved thunderstorms. All of those flights, both VFR and IFR, were under air traffic control at the time of their accidents.
The Air Safety Foundation dedicated a Special Emphasis section of its 2005 Nall Report to the importance of hazardous weather avoidance and the need for pilots and controllers to work together.
According to the Special Emphasis section of the report, weather and radar processing (WARP) is now installed in all air route traffic control centers. WARP provides weather images, derived from Nexrad weather radar, on the air traffic controller's radar screen.
"All pilots should be aware of the capabilities of this potentially life-saving technology, as well as its limitations," said Landsberg.
The Air Safety Foundation offers numerous weather-related safety products, including Safety Advisors and seminars. An online training program about thunderstorm avoidance is due to be released this spring. It will join the other ASF online courses.
Overall, the 2005 Nall Report shows that there were 6.7 percent fewer total accidents in 2004 than in 2003, and fatal accidents declined by 7.1 percent. The decrease in GA accidents in 2004 continued a downward trend of overall and fatal GA accident rates, which are down about 25 percent over the past 10 years. This reduction in accidents continued even as the FAA estimates that GA flight hours have increased by about 200,000 hours in each of the last three years.
The report, popular among pilots as a way to learn from the mistakes of others, is also used as a reliable source for GA accident information by members of the media, policy makers, and other public figures.
The 2005 Nall Report can be downloaded online. AOPA members can order a copy of the 2005 Nall Report by calling the AOPA Pilot Information Center at 800/USA-AOPA.
The 2005 Nall Report was funded entirely by the Emil Buehler Trust, which was established in 1984 to perpetuate the memory of Emil Buehler and his commitment to aviation science and technology. During his lifetime, Buehler believed that the majesty and mystery of flight was a vision to be shared. This vision drives the continuing philanthropic involvement of the dedicated Board of Trustees of the Emil Buehler Trust.
The annual Joseph T. Nall Report is dedicated to the memory of Joe Nall, a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) member who died as a passenger in an airplane accident in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1989.
March 2, 2006