The AOPA’s Air Safety Foundation released its Joseph T. Nall report on general aviation safety. It found that for 2016 and 2017, the trend line for personal aviation accidents is moving in the right direction—downward.
With the deliberately measured release by the NTSB of its final reports on aviation accidents, analysts can only crunch numbers for years past. The biggest takeaway is that the overall trend for GA safety continues to improve. Why is this so? That’s a tough, but good, question.
First, the numbers: According to the report, during 2016 and 2017, general aviation saw a continued decrease in overall accident rates, with 2017 showing a decrease in total accidents from 2016. The numbers are still too high, but the report found that 2017 had a total accident rate of 4.81 per 100,000 hours and a lower fatal accident rate of 0.76 per 100,000 hours. While there were more total GA accidents in 2018, the fatal accident rate for that year was lower than for 2017. This was with a total accident rate of 4.56 per 100,000 hours and a fatal accident rate of 0.74 per 100,000 hours. These rates represent almost a 50% improvement that has happened incrementally over the past two-plus decades.
The other big news is that ASF is updating its reporting structure to fit the modern information-hungry age. ASF will be issuing updates to aviation safety on a rolling 30-day schedule. This means there will be much less lag between NTSB reports and ASF’s crunching of that data.
The report isn’t, at heart, an analysis of the causes of changes in safety numbers. But many experts, ours included, point to the adoption of scenario-based training, along with digital electronics, including portables such as iPads, as positive influences on the downward trend.