At EAA Airventure 2015, I was struck by the immense optimism and energy around general aviation. We pilots are a passionate group and can see the silver lining in just about any convective system. I share that optimism. GA safety is on a positive trend; with 2013 and initial data from 2014, these look to be the safest years on record for GA flying. AOPA’s Air Safety Institute is the recognized leader in GA safety and our products are viewed more than two million times a year. We are making a difference!
At AirVenture, I was able to interact with a variety of aviation enthusiasts—everyone from a 777 captain and Experimental builder/flyer to the spouse of a Cessna pilot who described herself as a “nervous flyer.” I find it fascinating how people view risk and how their perceptions inform and influence decisions. For instance, when nonpilots think about GA flying, they want to make the obvious comparison to the form of flight they’re most familiar with—the airlines. That seems logical on its face, but doesn’t put things in the correct perspective. Commercial airline travel is widely recognized as one of the safest of all forms of transportation, and the United States has the safest airline transportation systems in the world. It’s also one of the most heavily regulated activities on Earth.
Most Americans have little understanding of the breadth and depth (and importance) of the other side of aviation—GA. It covers nearly every kind of flying that’s not included under what we consider the traditional airlines. A short list of its operational areas includes recreational/personal flying; flight training/instructional flying; corporate and executive transportation; medical transport; sightseeing; business travel; aerial application; air-taxi and charter operations; aerial photography and aerial advertising; law enforcement; search and rescue; and charity and public-benefit flights.
Each requires a different and unique type of aircraft, from a single-engine Cessna trainer to a helicopter to a multimillion-dollar corporate jet and everything in between. The range of pilot qualifications, landing sites, and support systems is just as wide. AOPA and the Air Safety Institute represent and support all these activities through advocacy, free online training, and safety education. We also monitor and analyze trends to target our efforts and keep the flying public informed. This is a critically important function because we measure our success through accidents that never occur. Long-term trends are the only way to really gauge our progress, find meaning through analysis, and pass along that information to stakeholders. Each year we publish the cornerstone document for GA safety information, the Joseph T. Nall Report. This is one important way we pass along safety trend information to help pilots, industry, and policy makers stay informed. The Nall Report provides in-depth analysis of accident data, highlights some significant accident case studies, and provides comprehensive analysis on GA safety trends.
We are passionate about aviation safety and building on our past achievements. I regularly hear from pilots who use ASI safety products (courses, quizzes, videos) and that they are second to none. And while all of these safety education products are free to all, they are made possible through the support and donations made by a select portion of the pilot population.
If you share the passion for flying, safety, and want to help keep GA strong, one way to lend your support is by joining a group that goes above and beyond—the AOPA Foundation’s Hat in the Ring Society. The Hat in the Ring Society is AOPA’s longest-running philanthropic giving society. The name comes from the superior World War I fighter squadron led by the legendary ace Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker. The Hat in the Ring Society is comprised of philanthropist-pilots who “throw their hats in the ring” with a tax-deductible charitable donation between $1,000 and $5,000 every year.
As a member of the Hat in the Ring Society you will be recognized as having a major personal impact on GA’s future through a listing in the AOPA Foundation’s annual report, invitations to Hat in the Ring Society events, an embroidered windbreaker jacket, a personal membership liaison at AOPA headquarters, as well as a printed thanks in AOPA Pilot magazine.
If you’re ready to go above and beyond, contact Hat in the Ring membership liaison Justin Biassou (301-695-2268 or firstname.lastname@example.org) and join this elite group. Doing so you will help us make a difference by keeping flying safe for every pilot. Our combined efforts to educate pilots will save lives.
George Perry leads the work of the AOPA Air Safety Institute, which is funded by the AOPA Foundation. He is a member of the AOPA Foundation’s Hat in the Ring Society.