Mar. 23, 2004 - Preliminary numbers from the National Transportation Safety Board indicate that aviation education efforts continue to pay off, with the 2003 general aviation (GA) accident rate hovering near an all-time low, says the AOPA Air Safety Foundation.
The NTSB-reported 2003 accident rate for general aviation (which includes all flying except scheduled air carrier and military flights) was 6.71 accidents per 100,000 flight hours, up from 6.69 accidents per 100,000 flight hours in 2002. The rate of fatal accidents also rose slightly, from 1.33 to 1.36 per 100,000 flight hours.
"Although the NTSB reports rates to two decimal places, that implies a far greater level of accuracy than the system can possibly measure," said Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Bruce Landsberg. "The slight change may be due more to the FAA's downward revision in the estimated number of flight hours last year than to any real decrease in safety."
To put the increase into perspective, there were six more fatal GA accidents in 2003 than in 2002, or one every other month.
"The fact remains that the GA accident rate is 60% lower than it was in 1970," continued Landsberg. "The numbers also should serve as a reminder that good decision making and maintaining adequate piloting skills is the best strategy for safe flights."
The NTSB numbers are based largely on preliminary information. The Air Safety Foundation annually issues the Nall Report, a much more comprehensive look at GA safety, which uses mostly final accident reports for the previous year to analyze leading causes and factors, such as the phase of flight (takeoff, en route, maneuvering, landing) involved in accidents, pilot experience, weather, and numerous other factors. The 2003 Nall Report, on GA safety in 2002, will be available later this spring at www.aopa.org/asf/publications/03nall.pdf.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation is the only national organization devoted exclusively to improving GA safety. ASF offers numerous free online education courses on topics ranging from airspace to working with air traffic control to piloting an aircraft alone in instrument weather conditions. The foundation also offers hundreds of free live safety seminars all across the United States every year, reaching tens of thousands of pilots. A listing of seminar dates and locations is available online.
Foundation safety outreach efforts are funded through voluntary donations by AOPA members and tax-deductible contributions from individual pilots and companies interesting in promoting general aviation safety. For more information on supporting the ASF mission, visit www.aopa.org/asf/ and click on the "You Can Help" button.