Pilots, Aviation Leaders Blast USA Today Reporting

Reaction by pilots and aviation leaders to a scathing three-part special report in USA Today yesterday on air safety titled "Unfit for Flight" has been overwhelmingly negative, with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association calling the series of articles "extremely flawed, sensational, one-sided and inaccurate."

AOPA said the report “gets the general aviation safety record wrong, it ignores efforts by the industry to make general aviation safer, and it violates basic tenets of fairness and accuracy when it comes to good journalism.”

In the article series, beginning on the paper’s front page with a large photo of burning aircraft wreckage, lead author Thomas Frank paints general aviation as being responsible for tens of thousands of deaths caused by “hidden defects” that the paper claims have been covered up by profit-motivated aircraft manufacturers and the National Transportation Safety Board.

The article series appears to be an attempt to piggyback on the frenzy over the recent scrutiny of General Motors, which was found to have covered up manufacturing defects of ignition switches that lead to highway deaths.

Aviation leaders, however, say the article’s conclusions simply don’t add up.

“The reality is that the number of fatal accidents in general aviation aircraft has declined substantially in recent years,” said Pete Bunce, president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. “In fact, the goal of 1 fatal accident per 100,000 hours flown by 2018 now appears increasingly likely.”

Others noted that the article series ignores efforts to improve GA safety, such as the Part 23 rewrite that is seeking to overhaul decades-old certification standards, while getting numerous facts about high-profile crashes wrong.

Worst of all, pilots and aviation leaders said, the author of the article appears to have purposely gone out of his way to manufacture a crisis that doesn’t exist.

“It is clear that Mr. Frank could make no space in his lengthy article for evidence of progress — evidence laid out in an hour-long discussion AOPA had with him last week. Including this information would have undermined his misplaced notion that general aviation is unsafe,” AOPA concluded.

Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.

We welcome your comments on flyingmag.com. In order to maintain a respectful environment, we ask that all comments be on-topic, respectful and spam-free. All comments made here are public and may be republished by Flying.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get the latest FLYING stories delivered directly to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter