AOPA’s Air Safety Institute Releases 28th Nall GA Accident Analysis

Three quarters of all accidents were caused by some pilot action or inaction.

airplane instruments at night
Despite the new technologies available in GA aircraft today, pilots are still the cause of approximately 75 percent of all accidents.Pixabay

Similar to its predecessors, the 28th Nall report released by the AOPA last week analyzes general aviation accidents in United States national airspace and on flights departing from or returning to the U.S. or its territories or possessions. The Joseph T. Nall Report, named for a former NTSB Board member, focuses on airplanes that weigh less than 12,500 pounds and helicopters of all sizes. Collectively, these numbers account for 99 percent of GA flight activity. Some categories are excluded however, including gliders, weight-shift control aircraft, powered parachutes, gyrocopters, and lighter-than-air machines of all types.

Because the National Transportation Safety Board requires a substantial amount of time to investigate accidents, the ASI’s Nall report covers the most recent year for which probable cause has been determined in at least 80 percent of accidents.

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.

A glimpse at the new Nall report shows that in 2016, the total accident count was 1,214; 195 of those were fatal accidents and resulted in 346 deaths. While the number of total accidents increased from 1,146 in the previous 2015 report, the number of fatal accidents declined by 11 percent, down from 221 in 2015 to 195 in 2016. Not surprisingly, nearly 75 percent of all accidents and 76.1 percent of all fatalities occurred because of some pilot action or inaction. The ASI's GA Scorecard that offers a closer look at the data used to create the Nall report does show some other encouraging accident trends.

While some areas are not improving as quickly as others, the overall fatal accident trend shows a large reduction and simultaneously an increase in GA activity (total flight hours flown). The FAA estimated 2016 flight time at 24.64 million flight hours, compared to 23.98 million flight hours in 2015.