National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs
Washington, DC -- The National Transportation Safety Board has released a safety report recommending that new methods be developed for collecting and reporting flight activity data for smaller, noncommercial (general aviation) airplanes. The report was prompted by NTSB concerns about the accuracy and consistency of the procedures currently used by the Federal Aviation Administration in calculating how much and for what purpose people fly.
Unlike scheduled, commercial air carriers, general aviation operators are not required to report actual flight activity data. Instead, the FAA uses its annual General Aviation and Air Taxi Activity (GAATA) Survey to query a sample of registered aircraft owners, either through the Internet or by mail. Responses from the sampling are then extrapolated to the entire aircraft registry to obtain estimates of total activity.
The NTSB and others rely on this data to calculate accident rates and statistics that form the basis for assessing general aviation safety in the U.S. Valid activity data are necessary to compare the accident rates for different aircraft types and types of operations, to establish baseline measures that can be used to identify and track accident trends, and to assess the effectiveness of safety improvement efforts.
However, the NTSB is concerned that the survey is based on a relatively small sample of diverse aircraft operations and that the aircraft registry may contain many outdated and inaccurate records.
The NTSB report discusses staff attempts to independently verify the accuracy of general aviation activity estimates by comparing FAA aircraft registry records and annual flight-hour estimates with other indicators of flight activity for the years 1985-2002, including the size of the active pilot population and annual aviation fuel consumption. While the staff found strong statistical relationships among these various indicators, and with annual accident totals, they did not observe any significant correlations between the annual general aviation flight-hour estimates reported in the GAATA survey and the other activity indicators.
The complete text of the safety report and the recommendations to the FAA can be found on the Board's website at www.ntsb.gov, under "Publications-Aviation-Studies."
NTSB Office of Public Affairs: (202) 314-6100
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.