Jan. 13, 2015
Contact: Steve Hedges
FREDERICK, MD –General aviation (GA) safety has improved significantly in recent years, and long-awaited regulatory changes that make it easier to install safety equipment in existing aircraft will help continue that trend, AOPA President Mark Baker said Jan. 13. Baker made the statement after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced that GA loss-of-control accidents are on the agency’s 2015 “Most Wanted” list of safety concerns.
In 2013, the most recent year for which complete data are available, general aviation pilots in the United States flew nearly 23 million hours and the total number of accidents involving helicopters and light airplanes declined 32 percent compared to a decade earlier. The number of fatal accidents declined by 40 percent during the same 10-year period. Also in 2013, the fatal accident rate dropped to an all-time low of .90 fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours.
“2013 was the safest year on record for GA and the first time ever the fatal accident rate dropped below 1 accident per 100,000 flight hours,” said Baker. “Education, training, and technology all played a role in that success, and we believe making it easier to bring modern safety equipment into the cockpits of existing type-certificated aircraft will help make GA even safer. We’re working with the FAA and industry to lower the regulatory barriers that have prevented many aircraft owners from upgrading their equipment.”
AOPA co-chairs the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC), a standing government/industry committee that uses a data-driven process to identify, manage and mitigate risks. AOPA also co-chaired a multi-year working group, as part of the GAJSC, tasked with analyzing loss-of-control accidents that produced 29 specific recommendations, including changing the FAA’s approach to aircraft certification in order to speed safety enhancements into the cockpit. The proposed changes are intended to better reflect rapid advancements in technology and ensure that more aircraft owners have access to the latest safety equipment.
AOPA and others, as part of Certification Process study and the Part 23 Reorganization Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC), have worked closely with the FAA since 2008 to reform the agency’s complex certification regulations with the goal of producing “twice the safety at half the cost.” In 2013, the President signed the Small Airplane Revitalization Act, which set a 2015 deadline to complete certification reforms. While the FAA has said it will miss that deadline, the agency has made progress in some areas, including approving the use of angle-of-attack (AOA) indicators in GA aircraft as a means to increase situational awareness and prevent loss-of-control accidents. In urging the GA community embrace the technology, the FAA cited the recommendations of the GAJSC and a study of 2,472 fatal general aviation accidents that found in-flight loss of control was the most prevalent cause.
While the FAA has made some progress, the majority of emphasis has been on Part 23 reform, which would make it easier to put advanced safety technology into new aircraft. AOPA and others have also been pushing the FAA to reform rules to allow new technology into existing aircraft.
“If we want to increase safety and reduce certification costs, we need to include the existing fleet as well as new production aircraft,” said Baker. “That means regulations, orders, and policies regarding the maintenance, installation, and modernization of existing aircraft must also be streamlined and transformed.”
There are more than 200,000 aircraft in the existing general aviation fleet, including more than 100,000 IFR-equipped aircraft, the majority of which are using technology from the 1960s through the 1980s.
“Safety is the top priority for every pilot on every flight, and giving more pilots access to the latest technology is one important way we can enhance safety,” said Baker. “By putting loss-of-control accidents on its Most Wanted list the NTSB is sustaining the focus on an issue that has been at the forefront of safety efforts by AOPA, the Air Safety Institute, the aviation industry, and the FAA for some time.”
While preventing loss-of-control accidents was the only GA-specific item on the NTSB’s list, general aviation pilots could benefit from several of the other NTSB targets, including reducing distractions, ending substance impairment, procedural compliance, and requiring “medical fitness for duty.”
The AOPA Air Safety Institute offers a range of free publications, educational programs, accident analysis, and online and in-person courses aimed at improving GA safety. Common loss-of-control situations, minimizing in-flight distraction, aeronautical decision making, and medical issues are among the dozens of topics covered.
“Making flying safer is a process of continuous improvement, and GA is safety has come a long way in the past decade. We will continue working with the NTSB, FAA, and aviation industry to ensure that trend continues,” said Baker.
Since 1939, AOPA has protected the freedom to fly for thousands of pilots, aircraft owners and aviation enthusiasts. AOPA is the world’s largest aviation member association, with representatives based in Frederick, Md., Washington, D.C., Wichita, Kans., and seven regions across the United States. AOPA provides member services that range from advocacy at the federal, state, and local levels to legal services, flight planning products, safety programs and award-winning media. To learn more, visit www.aopa.org.
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