Most general aviation fatal accidents are caused by in-flight loss of control, primarily from aerodynamic stalls.
On average, one fatal accident involving loss of control occurs every 5.5 days.
After early completion of a goal to reduce general aviation's fatal accident rate 10 percent over 10 years, FAA remains determined to make the world's safest airspace even safer.
Collaborating through a government/industry safety group, FAA and the aviation community are using data to identify general aviation risks, pinpoint trends through root cause analysis, and develop safety strategies.
Although the general aviation fatal accident rate is declining, many crashes still could be prevented with better pilot training and risk awareness.
In Fiscal Year 2017, general aviation's fatal accident rate was 0.84 per 100,000 flight hours, down from 1.09 in 2012. In 2017, 347 people died in 209 general aviation accidents. By comparison, commercial aviation in the United States has had just one fatal accident since 2013.
The FAA set a goal to reduce the general aviation fatal accident rate by 10 percent from 2009 to 2018 and met that goal in 2015, but it is determined to find more ways to make the world's safest airspace even safer.
The FAA and the aviation industry are working on three key initiatives to improve general aviation safety:
- General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC)
- Equip 2020 campaign for Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS-B) Out equipage
- Fly Safe outreach campaign to prevent dangerous loss of control (LOC) situations.
Most general aviation fatal accidents are caused by in-flight LOC, primarily from aerodynamic stalls. On average, one fatal accident involving LOC occurs every 5.5 days. LOC can happen because an aircraft enters a speed outside of its normal flight envelope and may quickly create a stall or spin danger.
From 2008 to 2017, fatal accidents from controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) — another leading cause of general aviation accidents — have been reduced by about half.
The United States has the world's largest general aviation community with more than 220,000 aircraft, including balloons, amateur-built aircraft, helicopters, and business jets. By working together, government and industry are making a difference to put the right technologies, regulations, and education initiatives in place to improve general aviation safety.
The FAA is committed to reducing the general aviation accident rate through pilot education and improving safety technology for aircraft.
Collaborating through the GAJSC, FAA and industry are using data to identify risk, pinpoint trends through root-cause analysis, and develop safety strategies.
Formed in the mid-1990s, the GAJSC recently renewed its efforts to combat fatal general aviation accidents. The government-industry group uses the same path as the Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST): a data-driven, consensus-based approach to analyze safety data to develop specific interventions that will decrease accidents. The team has adopted more than 39 safety enhancements to address leading causes. The focus is on training, procedures, and technology to help with loss of control. This includes a streamlined policy for angle of attack (AOA) system approvals and outreach to the general aviation community on loss of control topics. Additional safety enhancements include helping pilots make decisions after an engine fails, and improving engine technology as well as resources and training for mechanics.
The GAJSC is working with the general aviation community to incorporate its data into the FAA's Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS) program to help identify risks. General aviation participation in ASIAS has grown rapidly and now includes almost 70 business and corporate aviation operators, 11 universities, and several general aviation pilots.
The FAA is also working with manufacturers to define equipage requirements and support NextGen by streamlining the certification and installation of technologies such as ADS-B, a foundational element of NextGen that improves aircraft surveillance through satellite-based positioning.
In 2014, the FAA took an important step to improve safety in small aircraft by simplifying design and production approval requirements for AOA indicators. AOA indicators provide pilots with a visual aid to prevent loss of control in critical phases of flight. Previously, the cost and complexity of indicators limited their use to military and commercial aircraft. Under new FAA guidelines, AOA devices can be added to small airplanes to supplement airspeed indicators and stall warning systems to give pilots another tool to avoid a dangerous aerodynamic stall and subsequent loss of control.
In 2015, FAA launched the Fly Safe national safety campaign to educate the general aviation community on how to prevent LOC accidents. Join the campaign by following and using #FlySafe on Facebook and Twitter.
10 Leading Causes of Fatal General Aviation Accidents, 2001–2015
- Loss of control in flight
- Controlled flight into terrain
- System component failure: engine
- System component failure: non-engine
- Unintended flight into instrument meteorological conditions
- Mid-air collisions
- Low altitude operations