The 32nd Joseph T. Nall Report offers users a near real-time analysis of general aviation accidents that are updated on a rolling 30-day cycle, with access to analysis going back as far as 2008, and data trends projected well into 2022.
ASI’s executive summaries for a given period provide insight and comparisons of selected dates versus previous years.
The report notes a decrease in total accidents from 1,167 in 2019 to 1,051 in 2020. The 10-year average is 1,223 accidents each year. Overall accident rates decreased from 4.87 per 100,000 flight hours to 4.69 and the fatal accident rate decreased from 0.89 to 0.83 from 2019 to 2020, respectively.
In addition, non-commercial fixed-wing accidents decreased slightly with the fatal accident rate declining to 0.92 and the total accident rate decreasing to 5.27. Helicopter accidents—both commercial and non-commercial—saw relatively flat fatal accident rates from 2019 to 2020, but overall accident rates decreased. Weather-related accidents remain highly lethal, but overall weather accidents sharply decreased in 2020, and maneuvering accidents—another area with high lethality—saw a substantial decrease in fatal accidents reaching a 10-year low.
The commercial fixed-wing total accident rate rose following two years of decline. The number of fatal fuel-related accidents has remained steady at an average of eight per year for several years.
Although landing accidents continue to remain the leading type of accidents, they account for the lowest number of fatal accidents. Descent and approach accidents rose in both overall and fatal accidents, with stall/spin accidents accounting for the largest number of fatal accidents.
These accident causes relate to pilot decision-making and proficiency and this data helps inform the industry, including the AOPA Air Safety Institute, where further education and training are needed to improve aviation safety.
General aviation (GA) is all flight activity of every kind except that done by the uniformed armed services and scheduled airlines. In addition to personal and recreational flying, it includes public-benefit missions such as law enforcement and fire suppression, flight instruction, freight hauling, passenger charters, crop-dusting, and other types of aerial work that range from news reporting to helicopter sling loads.
The Nall Report analyzes GA accidents in U.S. National Airspace and on flights departing from or returning to the U.S. or its territories or possessions. The report covers airplanes with maximum rated gross takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds or less and helicopters of all sizes. Collectively, these types of aircraft account for 99 percent of GA flight activity. Other categories are excluded, including gliders, weight-shift control aircraft, powered parachutes, gyrocopters, UAS, and lighter-than-air crafts of all types.
The total amount of accidents nationwide can vary substantially from year to year. For that reason, the most informative measure is usually not the number of accidents but the accident rate, commonly expressed as the number of accidents per 100,000 flight hours. GA flight time is estimated using the FAA’s annual General Aviation and Part 135 Activity Survey, which breaks down aircraft activity by category and class and purpose of flight, among other characteristics.