Credit the booming economy or perhaps revamped regulations, but the FAA reports general aviation pilots are flying more hours—378,906 more hours than the previous reported year, an increase of about 2 percent, but an increase nonetheless. And not only have flying hours increased in the last year, but GA has surpassed its 10-year goal in reducing the fatal accident rate.
Formed in the mid-1990s and co-chaired by AOPA, the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC) is a government/industry committee that works to improve GA safety. In 2009, the committee set a 10-year initiative to reduce the GA fatal accident rate per 100,000 flight hours by 10 percent from fiscal year 2009 to fiscal year 2018, with no more than one fatal accident per 100,000 flight hours by 2018.
GA pilots can give themselves a pat on the back for both the uptick in flight hours and meeting the longtime safety goal. AOPA President Mark Baker said, “Thanks to an ongoing industry-wide commitment to safety, we were able to meet this 10-year goal and drive down the GA accident rate. It’s encouraging to see key stakeholders, the FAA, and aviation organizations working together to encourage more people to fly all while maintaining an upstanding safety record.”
For some time, the industry has been shifting toward non-regulatory, proactive, data-driven safety solutions to reduce GA accidents. Many pilots utilize the numerous continuing education workshops, seminars, and safety materials offered by the AOPA Air Safety Institute and funded by the AOPA Foundation.
And pilots are consuming safety videos like never before. The Air Safety Institute's YouTube channel had more than 4 million views this year. Its compelling yet tragic Accident Case Study videos examine the circumstances of accidents while reminding pilots to avoid mistakes that can lead to tragedy.
One commenter, Ron Parker, wrote, “These kinds of videos are an incredibly useful and important resource. They allow pilots and friends of pilots to understand more completely just what is involved in taking a machine into the sky. ”
In July, the Air Safety Institute launched its long-awaited Focused Flight Review designed to allow pilots to sharpen their skills and proficiency through flight scenarios. The materials focus on a variety of familiar operational areas such as stick-and-rudder skills, decision making, understanding of aircraft operating envelopes, technologies, aircraft performance capabilities, and loss-of-control avoidance.
And although the GA industry is constantly working to improve safety margins, Air Safety Institute Executive Director Richard McSpadden warns that we can never settle for complacency. “ASI is working to build a community of safety-minded pilots who never stop learning. Working with the industry and supporting these initiatives is the best way to save lives and grow the pilot population. We are grateful to the generous donors to the AOPA Foundation who make these resources available for all pilots.”
Initial estimates for fiscal year 2018 show that GA will be under the 10-year goal and will be finalized next year.