The AOPA Air Safety Foundation said preliminary statistics announced February 25 by the National Transportation Safety Board show 1999 was the safest year yet for non-airline general aviation. The data continue an improvement trend dating back to 1947.
"The 342 fatal accidents reported by NTSB for 1999 are the fewest since the end of World War II," said Bruce Landsberg, ASF executive director. "The total accident rate and the fatal accident rate were each the lowest recorded since government record-keeping began in 1938.
"Despite an increase in the number of GA aircraft and flight hours, accidents continue to decline in both absolute and relative terms. That's a tribute to the continuing efforts of industry, government, and pilots to improve aviation safety. But we must do more."
According to NTSB preliminary data, the number of fatal accidents declined 6.3 percent (from a restated 365 in 1998 to 342 in 1999), resulting in a fatal accident rate of 1.26 per 100,000 hours flown. That represents a 7.4 percent improvement over 1998 and a nearly 50 percent improvement since 1970.
There were 1,908 accidents of all types (one less than 1998), but the estimated number of flight hours increased 1.1 percent to 27.08 million hours. That resulted in a total accident rate of 7.05, the lowest ever recorded. That same total accident rate was 77.83 in 1946 and 18.10 in 1970.
Most areas of general aviation flying showed improvement. Welcome news this year was an 11.1-percent decline in fatal personal flying accidents and a 1.7-percent decline in total personal flying accidents. The number of fatal instructional flying accidents dropped 9.1 percent.
This low number of fatal training accidents (20) illustrates that flight instruction remains one of the safest activities in general aviation—a credit to the nation's flight instructors and a reflection of the controlled flight instruction environment. Instructional flights constitute 22 percent of all GA flying activity but only 6 percent of fatal accidents.
The number of midair collisions increased from 15 to 18 in 1999, but only half resulted in fatalities. "Midair collisions are still extraordinarily rare, less than 1 percent of all accidents, and the number of midairs remains fairly constant year to year," said Landsberg.
"However, several high-profile accidents since New Year's are drawing significant public attention to this safety issue. The aviation community will have to redouble its efforts to reduce these accidents."
The Air Safety Foundation had already started developing a new safety seminar on midair collision avoidance, which is scheduled to debut in October.
Chartered in 1950 by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the Air Safety Foundation is the largest private, nonprofit organization in the United States dedicated to general aviation safety research, continuing pilot education, and training.
General aviation is defined by the NTSB as all flying except scheduled airlines, air taxis and air charters, and military flights. The Air Safety Foundation's free continuing pilot education seminars alone reached more than 33,000 pilots nationwide in 1999. The foundation is funded largely by tax-deductible contributions from individual pilots.
February 25, 2000