Homebuilt Aircraft Accident Numbers Decline Again

More than one reason credited for the improved results.

Homebuilt Airplanes
The EAA says accidents involving amateur-built aircraft are on the decline.Rans Aircraft

The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) says that, according to FAA data, fatal accidents in experimental amateur-built aircraft declined 17 percent for the 12-month period ending September 2016, compared to figures from a year earlier. The FAA specifically listed 33 accidents in the most recent period versus 40 during the prior year and 51 for the period from October 2013 to September 2014. Fatal accident numbers also dropped for experimental aircraft defined as racing, exhibition only and research and development categories, as well as some light sport aircraft. Numbers in these specific groups dropped from 61 to 49 in the last reporting period, marking one of the lowest single-year fatal accident totals since the FAA began keeping records.

Sean Elliott, EAA's vice president of advocacy and safety, credits some of the improvements in fatal mishap numbers to the association's safety focus, including the inaugural Founder's Innovation Prize competition that searches for new ideas to reduce loss-of-control accidents in amateur-built aircraft, one of the leading causes of fatal accidents. The association's first Innovation Prize was awarded to Ihab Awad earlier this year for his device called the Airball, which synthesizes air data from a number of sensors and graphically presents it to a pilot. The information helps them quickly understand the flight state of their airplane.

Elliott said other programs focused on improving safety in the experimental category included the Accessible Safety Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) that reduced the hurdles to adding new-generation safety technology to type-certified aircraft. EAA also credited the recent FAA approval of an additional safety pilot during initial flight testing in amateur-built aircraft and a new focus on pilot transition and recurrent training. Elliott said the establishment of enhanced Technical Counselor and Flight Advisor programs have also brought knowledgeable volunteers together with people building and transitioning to amateur-built aircraft.