The AOPA Air Safety Institute’s 28th Joseph T. Nall Report finds that 2016 reached new lows in terms of fatal general aviation accidents, making it the safest year on record up to that point. Released this morning, the Nall report further indicates that 2017 continued that trend, AOPA reported.
The report provides a deeper dive into accidents to spotlight potential trends for fixed-wing aircraft weighing 12,500 pounds or less and helicopters. Nall cites preliminary data for 2017 but focuses on 2016 because it is the most recent year in which the National Transportation Safety Board has determined probable causes on at least 80 percent of the accidents.
In 2016, the number of general aviation accidents increased to 1,214 from 1,173 in 2015. But, correspondently, flight hours grew to 24.65 million, up from 23.98 million. At the same time, though, fatal accidents declined 11.7 percent from 221 in 2015 to 195 in 2016.
Air Safety Institute executive director Richard McSpadden said this reduction suggests that the concerted government/industry effort to tackle key general aviation safety issues is taking root. “These numbers continue to demonstrate historic performance in aviation safety,” he said.
In fixed-wing, non-commercial operations, weather-related accidents declined by more than one-third and were less than half of what they were a decade ago. Maneuvering accidents also reached a low point, with stall/loss of control involved in the majority of those. Similarly, fuel management-related accidents were down.
But the number of accidents on landing increased for fixed-wing, non-commercial aircraft and almost half of those involved loss of control. Pilot-related accidents were cited in 72.9 percent of the cases.
Commercial fixed-wing aircraft were involved in fewer total accidents (64), but the 19 fatal accidents marked a 10-year high. Of the commercial fixed-wing accidents, 40 involved agricultural operations. Half of those occurred while maneuvering.
Non-commercial general aviation helicopters reached a 10-year low in terms of total accidents, but the fatal accident rate of 17.7 percent marked a slight increase from 2015. Commercial helicopters were involved in the fewest number of fatal accidents—three—in 10 years.