Most Wanted: NTSB Targets GA Safety

Improvements needed in all areas of GA, says Board



The NTSB’s top 10 list of wanted improvements this year prominently includes the poor safety record of general aviation. ** **

“The United States has not had a fatal large commercial aviation accident since February 2009,” said the NTSB in a release highlighting its concerns over GA safety. “Each year,” the release stated, “hundreds of people — 450 in 2010 — are killed in GA accidents, and thousands more are injured.” The Board also pointed out the striking contrast between the safety of GA and air taxi operations — GA’s record, the Board said, is “about 6 times higher.” The gulf between GA safety and that of “large transport category operations” is even more dramatic, with the risk in GA flying being 40 times higher, according to the NTSB.

The release, which was notable for its seemingly haphazard targeting of reasons for the safety deficit of GA, stated that “Perhaps what is most distressing is that the causes of GA accidents are almost always a repeat of the circumstances of previous accidents,” a comment that seems to refer to large transport category accidents, which today are often the result of previously unanticipated catastrophic failures. Such was the case with TWA Flight 800, which crashed as a result of an explosion in its center fuel tank, or American Flight 587, which crashed in New York as a result of the pilot flying overcontrolling the rudder. In contrast with the airlines, GA accidents, the release indicated, are due to commonly repeated causes.

Included in no apparent order as noteworthy targets for attention for improvements to GA safety include better aircraft design, improved pilot performance, better training and compensation for mechanics, more effective more readily available de-icing systems, more robust occupant protection systems, and more reliable ELTs.

The release focused most of its attention, however, on pilots. “The best aircraft in the world will not prevent a crash if the pilot is not appropriately trained and prepared for conditions,” concluded the report.