General aviation beat a key safety target for 2017, based on preliminary estimates, and appears headed for its safest year yet, said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta in remarks at a government/industry conference.
Safety must be approached from many angles, Huerta said, addressing the Fifth General Aviation Safety Summit on Oct. 24. AOPA President Mark Baker, Air Safety Institute Executive Director Richard McSpadden, and AOPA Senior Director of Regulatory Affairs David Oord attended the session in Washington, D.C.
Baker reiterated AOPA’s commitment to the GAJSC, on which Oord co-chaired two working groups that focused on loss of control, and implemented numerous safety enhancements—plans that include “one or more intervention strategies to prevent or mitigate problems associated with accident causes,” and may include “procedures, training, and equipment installations that, when implemented, may reduce the likelihood of accidents in the future.”
“GA is as safe as it’s ever been, yet we are strengthening our focus and amplifying our effort,” McSpadden added, noting AOPA's and the Air Safety Institute’s numerous roles leading GAJSC efforts and providing the educational materials that help drive safety initiatives.
Several safety enhancements put forth by the GAJSC with AOPA’s leadership or direct participation have included promotion of and pilot education about angle-of-attack awareness as a key component in preventing loss of aircraft control; aeronautical decision making; and transition training, such as this online course designed for pilots who will move up to an aircraft with a higher level of complexity from what they currently fly.
A related initiative of AOPA’s You Can Fly program is the Rusty Pilots Program, which helps a pilot return to flying with confidence and knowledge after a prolonged absence from aviation.
Another safety enhancement aimed at medications and medical education for pilots was implemented by AOPA’s Medical Self-assessment course that is a component of becoming medically qualified under the FAA’s new BasicMed program that took effect in May and has helped more than 22,000 pilots resume flying as pilot in command.
The new airman certification standards that have gone into effect at intervals since mid-2016 for commercial pilot, instrument rating, and private pilot applicants was also supported by a safety enhancement. AOPA chairs the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee working group that has been tasked with creating and aligning the new standards with corresponding guidance and tests.
Other safety enhancements have helped reduce regulatory roadblocks to making older aircraft safer to fly by allowing them to be retrofitted with non-required safety equipment; provide alternative certification pathways for low-cost avionics solutions, including complying with the ADS-B mandate; and encourage other reforms of regulatory Part 23 to streamline small-aircraft certification standards, thereby opening a way to allowing innovative approaches to aircraft manufacturing, at reduced costs.
“This is an impressive list of accomplishments, and it’s one we should all be proud of,” Huerta said. “But in aviation, we’re always chasing the perfect. And as long as general aviation accidents keep occurring, we must stay vigilant and keep finding new ways to advance our shared safety mission.”
Huerta praised Safety Summit participants for facing safety issues in cooperation by asking, “How can we fix this—together?”
“With that kind of attitude, I know we can tackle anything that comes our way,” he said.