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The AOPA Air Safety Foundation recently published its 2004 Nall Report, an annual comprehensive compilation of general aviation (GA) accident statistics. The latest edition reveals an overall increase in GA accidents for 2003 as compared to 2002, but a continued downward trend in the accident rate. Preliminary numbers indicate that trend continued throughout 2004.
According to the report, total accidents in 2003 rose by 1.5 percent, while flight hours increased by 0.6 percent when compared to the previous year. The result was a slight increase in the accident rate, from 6.69 accidents per 100,000 flight hours in 2002 to 6.77 in 2003.
"Measuring accident rates in hundredths implies a level of accuracy in the system that doesn't exist," said ASF Executive Director Bruce Landsberg. To gain a clearer understanding of the data, ASF reviews the trends as well.
The 10-year data trend shows that the accident rate has decreased from 9.08 accidents per 100,000 flight hours in 1994 to 6.77 in 2003. Additionally, the fatal accident rate has decreased from 1.81 in 1994 to 1.37 in 2003.
"We study the trends to get a more accurate perspective on the data," said Landsberg. "A single year may contain anomalies that skew the statistics, but trend information provides a better long-term picture."
Preliminary information for 2004 indicates that the downward trend will continue. The accident rate decreased from 6.77 per 100,000 flight hours in 2003 to 6.22 in 2004, making it the safest year yet.
For 2003, most GA accidents - 79.4 percent - were non-fatal and 75.8 percent were pilot-related. Of those, the causes were nearly identical to those of previous years.
"The accident causes we review each year are not new," said Landsberg. "In 2003, takeoff, maneuvering, and weather were again among the top fatal accident producers."
Takeoffs and landings accounted for more than 50 percent of all GA accidents in 2003. The largest number of pilot-related fatal accidents, 25 percent, resulted from maneuvering flight.
The Nall Report has a new format this year, making it easier to locate class-specific information. Single-engine fixed-gear, single-engine retractable-gear, and multiengine aircraft are separated into individual sections, each containing all of the accident information for that class of aircraft.
Continuing its safety education efforts, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation included a special emphasis section on fuel management accidents this year. There were 147 of these accidents in 2003, or nearly three per week. From 2002 to 2003, fuel management accidents increased 22.5 percent.
The foundation's annual Nall Report is a detailed analysis of the previous year's GA accidents involving fixed-wing aircraft weighing less than 12,500 pounds. The report is named for former NTSB member and GA advocate Joseph T. Nall, who died as a passenger in a charter airplane crash in Venezuela in 1989.
As a supplement to the information contained in the Nall Report, the foundation also offers its accident database online.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation, the world's largest nonprofit GA safety organization, was founded in 1950 solely to help GA pilots improve flight safety. Since that time, the GA total accident rate has dropped by more than 90 percent despite a large increase in GA flight hours. ASF produces live seminars, online interactive courses, videotapes, written Safety Advisors and other aviation safety materials for free distribution to all GA pilots.
Editors: The Nall Report is available online. Hard copies are available by contacting the AOPA Media Relations department at 301/695-2159.
June 9, 2005