The number of accidents increased in 2007, which is worrisome, but the number of fatalities declined, as did the rate of fatal accidents, which fell more than would be anticipated by a declining number of flight hours, indicating a real reduction, according to the nineteenth annual AOPA Air Safety Foundation Joseph T. Nall Report released March 27.
“While any fatality is one too many, the declines indicate that industry-wide efforts to improve safety are bearing fruit,” said Bruce Landsberg, president of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. “But the increase in the overall number of accidents indicates that there is still work to be done to improve safety. The Nall Report helps us determine where to focus our efforts.”
For instance, several years ago, the Nall Report indicated that fuel exhaustion accidents in which the pilot ran the tanks dry were continuing to occur at an alarmingly high rate. Thanks in part to technically advanced aircraft and their improved fuel monitoring capabilities, and in part to a concerted pilot awareness campaign by the foundation, the FAA, and others in the industry, the current Nall Report shows a significant drop in the number of fuel exhaustion accidents.
Weather-related accidents continue to be among the most lethal types, with 82 percent of such accidents causing death. Because of the high percentage of fatal accidents, the foundation is continuing to develop new courses for its award-winning Weather Wise online series of safety education programs.
The foundation also noted a significant uptick in the number of accidents involving experimental aircraft during 2007. As a result, the foundation plans further research to determine whether or not there are specific problem areas, and then work with other experimental aircraft experts to look for safety solutions.
“The Nall Report is an important aviation safety tool,” concluded Landsberg. “It helps us look back and identify trends, but more importantly, it helps us determine where we can improve in the future.”
The Nall Report is a comprehensive analysis of what kinds of accidents pilots have, and why. The report looks at general aviation accidents that occurred in 2007 involving light, fixed-wing aircraft weighing less than 12,500 lbs. This is because 2007 is the most recent year for which final reports for virtually all accidents are available from the NTSB.