The AOPA Air Safety Foundation said preliminary statistics announced March 16 by the National Transportation Safety Board show 2000 was the safest year yet for non-airline general aviation. That continues an improvement trend dating back to 1946.
"Even though there was a four-percent increase in the number of hours flown, the total number of general aviation accidents declined four percent to a record low of 1,835," said Bruce Landsberg, ASF executive director. There were 1,913 accidents in 1999.
"The total accident rate and the fatal accident rate were each the lowest recorded since government record-keeping began in 1938," Landsberg added. General aviation flew an estimated 30.8 million hours last year.
According to NTSB preliminary data, the fatal accident rate declined to 1.11 accidents per 100,000 hours flown. That represents a 44 percent improvement from the 1982 fatal accident rate of 1.99. There were 591 fatal accidents then, compared with 341 in 2000.
The total accident rate showed similar improvement. The GA accident rate has been cut almost in half since 1982, from 10.9 per 100,000 hours to 5.96 in 2000. That same total accident rate was 77.83 in 1946 and 18.10 in 1970.
Most areas of general aviation flying showed improvement. Personal flying accidents dropped 4.9 percent, and business flying accidents declined 6.7 percent.
Despite an increase in flight training activities last year, the total number of instructional accidents declined by 3 percent. However, the number of fatal instructional accidents increased from 21 to 34.
The number of midair collisions increased by one to 18 in 2000, with 10 accidents resulting 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.
Chartered in 1950 by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation has provided the research and pilot education that have contributed to the continuing improvement in general aviation safety.
Last year, ASF education programs reached more than 76,000 pilots. Under ASF's innovate "Project V" (for video), more than 30,000 new private pilots and instrument-rated pilots received free videotapes providing safety training on issues specific to these pilots. Some 33,000 pilots attended free ASF safety seminars at locations across the nation.
And AOPA and ASF have taken the lead to educate U.S. pilots on how to avoid runway incursions. On March 9, ASF launched its innovative online training course, the ASF Runway Safety Program. In the first week alone, more than 8,000 pilots took the course.
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.
General aviation is defined by the NTSB as all flying except scheduled airlines, air taxis and air charters, and military flights.