Are small planes safe? It depends on the pilot: Ask the captain

Recently a colleague asked me if small planes were safe or not, citing recent small plane crashes.

I learned to fly in a small civilian plane, I flew them for over 50 years and I still fly them when possible. Yes, they are generally safe, but let’s look at some statistics.

First, general aviation is different from commercial aviation. General aviation includes small aircraft, fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, both commercial and private.

Several friends have small planes which they fly for their personal use. They belong to the general aviation category. Non-airline size jets flown by corporations are also considered general aviation. This is a broad category that needs to be broken down to determine if small planes are safe.

Analysis:Premium economy is airlines’ response to changing passenger expectations

This city of 7,500 inhabitants has 2 daily flights:How a lesser-known government program keeps us connected.

Depending on the year Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Nall Report data, which includes information on private aircraft, there is a continuous improvement in the rate of accidents and fatalities. In 2021, there were 939 accidents with 268 deaths, compared to 988 in 2019 before the pandemic with 307 deaths.

The main causes of general aviation accidents are the same as in previous years, runway excursions (runway excursion, short landing or runway overrun) are at the top of the list, but fortunately this type of accident has a low mortality rate. The low speed of this type of accident is one of the main reasons for the low rate of injuries and fatalities.

Fatalities are more frequent in accidents with loss of control. Unfortunately, this type of accident is the leading cause of death and has been for many years. The involuntary stall of the plane represents nearly half of this type of accident.

What is behind most general aviation accidents?

Although pilot experience is important and many believe to be the most important factor in crashes, it is equally important that pilots are competent and have recent experience.

Flying is a skill that requires frequent practice. One of the reasons commercial pilots have lower accident rates is because we fly more frequently, a commercial pilot can fly more than 500 hours a year, while a pilot flying for personal use cannot. steal that 100.

General aviation pilots who haven’t flown recently can book a flight with an instructor to ensure their skills are fresh, so they can safely handle crosswinds, flight anomalies and /or deteriorating weather conditions.

So far in 2022, the number of non-commercial fixed-wing accidents has decreased by about 1/3 (from about 1000 per year to a forecast of 660 in 2022) compared to previous years. This is partly due to the drop in the number of flights, but partly due to the increased vigilance of pilots. The number of deaths is also falling, from around 165 per year to a forecast of 96 in 2022.

How can these accidents be prevented?

While the improvements are good to see, aviation safety requires continuous improvement. No matter how safe we ​​are, our passengers expect us to improve.

Technology helps improve safety. Today’s navigation systems are much better than the systems I discovered in the 1970s, but the most important safety feature in aircraft is a well-trained, up-to-date, and competent pilot. Many groups, such as the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the National Business Aircraft Association and others, continue to push for continuous improvement in general aviation safety. As pilots, we should too.

Do you have any questions for the captain?

Comments are closed.