The National Transportation Safety Board on May 13 released the findings of its Special Investigation Report on the safety of agricultural aircraft operations, which can involve flying as low as 10 feet above the ground. That kind of flying presents risks from ground-based obstacles with scant room for error. The NTSB research looked at 78 accidents that occurred during the 2013 aerial flying season and found that agricultural flying ranks seventh in hours flown but third in total annual accidents where collisions with obstacles are a prevailing concern.
The report also includes eight safety recommendations to the FAA and the National Agricultural Aviation Research & Education Foundation, urging the two organizations to develop and distribute agricultural operations-specific guidance on fatigue and risk management, aircraft maintenance and pilot knowledge and skills tests. The NTSB also issued a new Safety Alert, “Preventing Obstacle Collision Accidents in Agricultural Aviation,” and a video safety alert that encourages ag operators to conduct thorough preflight and aerial surveys, to use technology to identify and maintain awareness of obstacles and better understand the performance limitations of their aircraft.