Can there be any excuse for the number of accidents occurring due to human error, given the high number of free safety resources available to the General Aviation pilot today, asks Dave Higdon?
'Safety is no Accident!' That sign hung in many of my former places of employment. All were workplaces with hazards that could be avoided through human thought and action, and the same slogan applies in Business Aviation.
Business aircraft operators tend to fare pretty well - particularly those flown by professional crew - ranking well above the rest of General Aviation. When accidents do happen, the same causes keep emerging at the top of the list; loss-of-control accidents are a persistent problem. Landing and take-off accidents dominate this sector.
What's difficult to discern is why, with all of the safety focus, these mistake continue to dominate the States?
To add to the aviation-safety angst, preliminary 2014 numbers released by NTSB indicate an increase in fatal accidents – up to 253 (from 222 in 2013). At the same time, the total number of GA accidents declined to 1,221 last year (from 1,224 in 2013). Yet despite the decline in reported accidents, GA’s accident rate increased to 6.74 in 2014 per 100,000 flight hours from 6.26 in 2013.
Preliminary NTSB info also showed accidents involving scheduled Part 135 (commuter) operations decreased to four in 2014 from seven in 2013. Meanwhile, on-demand Part 135 operations (e.g. charter, air taxi, air tour and air medical flights) logged 35 accidents last year, down from 44 in 2013 - a rate declining to 1.02 per 100,000 flight hours from 1.30.
The NTSB's 2014 GA accident data landed on my desktop about the same time as an FAA invitation to check out a new safety tool – a freebie. Developed by FAA's GA Joint Steering Committee, a government/industry group that analyzes GA accidents and incidents, the Flight Risk Assessment Tool (FRAT) exists to give pilots a measure to use prior to starting the engines.
The Committee felt that improved risk assessment before and during flight can significantly improve pilots’ chances of avoiding accidents and incidents. There are many ways to identify potential hazards associated with flight and to assess the likelihood that identified and unmitigated hazards could cause an accident or incident. This is the basis for Safety Risk Management, and can be accessed here:
FRAT is but one of many free tools, workshops and clinics available to pilots to help them fly more-aware, better prepared and, hopefully, accident free.
For members of the National Business Aviation Association, for example, free safety tools are widespread and frequently available. NBAA teamed with Jeppesen which provided Jeremy Vincent for an in-depth, free, review of aviation weather charts during an on-line webinar. The webinar was designed for Business Aviation professionals who currently have a pilot or dispatcher license and want to refresh their weather chart knowledge.
AOPA, meanwhile, funds and stages a host of free forums and clinics for pilots at locations scattered around the US. And NATA, EAA, HAI, all offer bargains in safety information geared to their specific memberships. Even for-profit operations are in on the effort to make flying safer. Among them Universal Weather's Crosswinds seminar. But arguably the hand's-down winner for in free aviation safety training comes courtesy of Bombardier and its Safety Standdown.
From the beginning Standdown focused on the element common to all aviation operations: The human factor. Over the course of 18 prior Standdowns, Bombardier has helped enlighten thousands of pilots at its annual multi-day seminar in Wichita; many more benefited from the company's online information and remote Standdown events.
After attending almost a dozen Standdowns – as an aviation journalist and as a participating pilot – I believe there is no better opportunity to soak up some knowledge, learn from other pilots' mistakes, and share that information with others unable to attend. It's coming up for its 19th event in October (6th-8th). Time still remains to register. You can start the process at http://www.safetystanddown.com/.
Please do share your own sources for free pilot safety training with your fellow aviation professionals below, leaving a comment. The broader our knowledge of all-things safety, be better for us all moving forwards!
Find more Safety Articles