The United States has not had a fatal large commercial aviation accident since February 2009, but the story is very different in the world of general aviation (GA). Each year, hundreds of people—450 in 2010—are killed in GA accidents, and thousands more are injured. GA continues to have the highest aviation accident rates within civil aviation: about 6 times higher than small commuter and air taxi operations and over 40 times higher than larger transport category operations. Perhaps what is most distressing is that the causes of GA accidents are almost always a repeat of the circumstances of previous accidents.
Reducing GA fatality rates requires improvements to the aircraft, flying environment, and pilot performance. Maintenance personnel need to remain current in their training and pay particular attention to key systems, such as electrical systems . Aircraft design should address icing. GA aircraft should also have the best occupant protection systems available and working emergency locator transmitters to facilitate timely discovery and rescue by emergency responders.
But the best aircraft in the world will not prevent a crash if the pilot is not appropriately trained and prepared for conditions. GA pilots should take initial and recurrent training on the various weather information sources and learn what to do when they inadvertently encounter adverse weather. As aircraft become more sophisticated with glass cockpits, GA pilots need to be more than just familiar with the technology; they need to also understand how it can malfunction. An emergency is not the time to be checking a manual to figure out how to adjust the flight display. And, as the people responsible for passengers, GA pilots should make sure that every passenger has a seat and a restraint system, including children under the age of 2.
Title: In-flight Icing Encounter and Loss of Control Simmons Airlines, d.b.a. American Eagle Flight 4184 Avions de Transport Regional (ATR) Model 72-212, N401AM, Roselawn, Indiana October 31, 1994; Volume 1: Safety Board Report (Revision 9/13/02)
NTSB Report Number: AAR-96-01, adopted on 7/9/1996 [Summary | PDF Document]
Title: Aircraft Accident Summary Report: In flight Fire, Emergency Descent and Crash in a Residential Area Cessna 310R, N501N Sanford, Florida July 10, 2007
NTSB Report Number: AAR-09-01, adopted on 1/28/2009 [Summary | PDF Document]
Title: Aircraft Accident Report: Collision into Mountainous Terrain, GCI Communication Corp. de Havilland DHC-3T, N455A, Aleknagik, Alaska, August 9, 2010
NTSB Report Number: AAR-11-03, adopted on 05/24/2011 [Summary | PDF Document]
For more information on the safety recommendations in these reports that address this Most Wanted List issue area, see: http://www.ntsb.gov/safetyrecs/private/QueryPage.aspx.