AOPA Air Safety Institute Releases Nall Report

Helicopters and experimentals show greatest safety improvements.

AOPA Air Safety Institute's 22nd Joseph T. Nall Report, General Aviation Accidents in 2010, is hot off the presses and it shows a promising trend in some areas of general aviation safety. Despite a slight increase in the number of GA operations, the number of accidents dropped in 2010 as compared with 2009.

All segments of aviation saw increases in operations. Commercial helicopter operations increased by 21 percent and at the same time there were 22 percent fewer accidents. Non-commercial fixed-wing operations saw a slight 3-percent increase along with a slight decrease in the number of accidents. But with 6.30 accidents and 1.16 fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours, the accident rate for these types of operations remained comparable with what the report has found in the past 10 years. In an opening statement of the report, the AOPA Foundation said: “One thing that just doesn’t seem to change annually is the excess risk that some pilots are willing to take on for personal flights. They accounted for almost 80 percent of all fixed-wing accidents but barely 40 percent of the corresponding flight time.”

There was, however, notable improvement in the amateur-built and experimental light-sport category. The fatal accident rate for this category of aircraft dropped an impressive 28 percent, while the total accident rate decreased by 9 percent. While this is encouraging news, there appears to be room for more improvement. The NTSB published a safety study earlier this year called The Safety of Experimental Amateur-Built Aircraft, which stated that while experimental amateur-built aircraft represented less than 10 percent of the U.S. general aviation fleet, this segment accounted for 15 percent of the total and 21 percent of the fatal accidents in 2011.

You may have noticed that ASI decided to rename the Nall Report to remove any ambiguity associated with the years covered in the report. Previously, the report would be named based on the year after the accident database it covered and the year before the report was released. For example, the 2010 Nall Report covered accidents from 2009 and was released in 2011. The new name, 22nd Joseph T. Nall Report, General Aviation Accidents in 2010, removes any ambiguities.