By Earl Weener
Labor Day marks the end of the busy summer flying season. This summer, my wife and I had several great – and, happily, uneventful – flights in our Bonanza. However, sadly, many of our fellow general aviation (GA) pilots did not fare so well. The NTSB’s initial reports show that between Memorial Day and Labor Day, 158 pilots and passengers perished in 94 fatal GA accidents. While those numbers are slightly lower than the previous year, on an annual basis, the GA accident rate has been largely static for the last several years.
As a community, we can do better. That’s why the NTSB placed improving GA safety on its Most Wanted List.
Recently, Vice Chairman Chris Hart, also a GA pilot, and I visited the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Air Safety Institute (ASI). In an AOPA Live interview with ASI President Bruce Landsberg, we talked about how to improve GA safety. The Vice Chairman stressed education. I pointed out that improving safety does not necessarily require new regulations or new equipment. I emphasized that GA pilots largely determine their personal safety by the level of proficiency they maintain, the capability and condition of the aircraft they fly, and the manner in which they identify and manage their risks.
Improving GA safety mostly means doing the things that we do as GA pilots, but doing them better, more safely, more thoughtfully, and with a better understanding of the situation and the risks. And, that leads directly to the Vice Chairman’s point: education. Pilots, please note that an excellent first stop for education is the AOPA website and ASI’s great online courses.
Earl F. Weener, Ph.D., took the oath of office as a Member of the National Transportation Safety Board on June 30, 2010. Dr. Weener is a licensed pilot and flight instructor who has dedicated his entire career to the field of aviation safety.