AOPA Questions NBC News Reporting on Georgia Midair

Association says segment critical of GA safety lacks “context and clarity.”

NBC Georgia Airplane Crash
AOPA has taken issue with an NBC News segment about a fatal crash in Georgia that the aviation organization calls skewed.NBC News

AOPA President Mark Baker contacted NBC News to voice the association’s concern that the network’s coverage of a fatal crash in Georgia last week presents a skewed view of general aviation safety.

According to a story on AOPA.org, the association told the network that its coverage of a midair collision that killed three people on September 7 presented "missed opportunities for clarity, missing context, and mistaken notions that the 90-second report could create in the minds of viewers."

The segment by NBC News correspondent Tom Costello hits viewers with a litany of grim statistics, noting that 250 general aviation airplanes crash each year and citing loss of control as a leading cause of accidents. Costello concludes by saying, "So many crashes. In just eight years, more than 3,000 lives lost."

At no point does the report point out to viewers that general aviation safety has been improving over the past decade. Instead it paints a picture of an activity fraught with unacceptable risk.

Flying contacted Costello yesterday by email to get his reaction to AOPA's criticisms. We pointed out to him that technological innovation in aviation, coupled with improved pilot training, has been having a positive impact on GA safety. We also noted that in the same eight-year period he mentions in his report, more than a quarter million people have been killed in automobile crashes in the United States.

Costello didn't respond directly to our request for comment, though he did thank us for providing the information and noted that he reads Flying and AOPA Pilot and has "great respect" for the pilot organization.

NBC News did not respond to a request for comment.