General aviation fatalities dropped 30 percent last year, to 491 from 703 in 2006, according to the NTSB. But the total number of general aviation accidents was higher, climbing to 1,631 in 2007 from 1,518 in 2006. The total number of accidents includes 20 U.S.-registered aircraft mishaps that occurred outside the U.S., its territories or possessions. The total number of general aviation fatalities during 2007 was the lowest annual total in more than 40 years, according to the Safety Board.
“The U.S. aviation industry has produced an admirable safety record in recent years,” said NTSB chairman Mark Rosenker. “However, we must not become complacent. We must continue to take the lessons learned from our investigations and use them to create even safer skies for all aircraft operators and their passengers.”
Surprisingly, there has been no lengthy discussion of the remarkable drop in general aviation fatalities during 2007. The aviation alphabet groups have not commented on the news, nor has it been a big topic of discussion on public forums. Is the lower number of general aviation fatalities due to the increasing sophistication of small airplanes? Or are piston airplanes, which generally have a higher accident rate, flying much less but turbine airplanes a lot more, thus keeping the total hours flown–as calculated by the FAA–relatively even? The latter is more likely because avgas deliveries have dropped dramatically during the past decade, while jet-A shipments have climbed. Yet the total number of general aviation accidents remains high, even though fatal accidents dropped by 30 percent, indicating that the general aviation industry still has plenty of work to do on the safety front.