The NTSB has once again included general aviation safety in its annual list of “most wanted safety improvements,” and in doing so the board lamented the fact that GA continues to have the highest accident rate within civil aviation including a fatality rate that has jumped by 25 percent in recent years.
The NTSB investigates about 1,500 accidents each year in general aviation involving more than 400 fatalities. In many cases, it finds that pilots did not have the “adequate knowledge, skills or recurrent training to fly safely, particularly in questionable weather conditions.” The board also said that sophisticated glass cockpit displays present a “new layer of complications for general aviation pilots. Not only are pilots dying due to human error and inadequate training, but also they are frequently transporting their families who suffer the same tragic fate.”
The Board noted that the GA accident rate is six times higher than for small commuter operators and about 40 times higher than for transport-category operators. And while the overall GA accident rate has remained about the same over the last 10 years, the fatal accident rate has increased by a whopping 25 percent.
“Pilots should be trained to use all available sources for weather information,” the NTSB said, “including the internet and satellites.” Also, they should train on flight simulators that are specific to the avionics they will be flying and be tested on the use of weather, instruments and glass cockpits.
Still, pilot error isn’t the only area of concern for GA safety. Aircraft mechanics should also be required to undergo recurrent training to keep them up to date with the best practices for inspecting and maintaining electrical systems, circuit breakers, and aged wiring, the board said.
The NTSB first put GA safety on its most wanted list last year. The only other aviation-related item on the list, which also includes safety initiatives for passenger vehicles, trains and buses, is airport surface operations.