While the GA community is certainly optimistic at hearing the 25th annual Nall Report’s announcement of a positive improvement in GA’s fatal fixed-wing accident rate, one positive year can’t quite be called an industry trend. Using 2013 data, GA’s fatal rate declined 19 percent, for the first time falling below 1.0, to 0.99 per 100,000 hours of flight time. The overall GA accident rate during the same period dropped 12 percent. Nall data is gathered by the AOPA Air Safety Institute, from Part 91 operated personal and business travel and flight instruction, as well as professionally flown corporate transport aircraft weighing less than 12,500 pounds.
The Nall Report also revealed that more than half of the improvement in GA accidents evolved from a significant reduction in mishaps suffered in amateur-built airplanes. The gap in accident rates between certified and amateur-built aircraft also narrowed, declining from 4.0 times greater in 2012 to 3.4 times in 2013. The fatal accident rate stood at 5.9 times greater in 2012, while in 2013, it dropped to 3.7 times more.
Helicopters did not fare quite as well as fixed-wing aircraft however. While the number of noncommercial helicopter accidents declined 17 percent, the number of fatal accidents increased by one. Taken together with a 10 percent decrease in estimated flight activity, this data resulted in the highest fatal helicopter accident rate since 2003, with practice auto-rotations still the maneuver leading to the greatest number of accidents. Luckily, no fatalities resulted from any of the 15 auto-rotations that occurred in 2013.
AOPA’s Joseph T. Nall Report represents the Air Safety Institute’s annual review of general aviation accidents during the most recent year for which reasonably complete data are available. The report is considered more than simply a retrospective analysis of GA accident data, with ASI regularly creating targeted educational content designed to specifically address areas of industry weakness.