Engaging the General Aviation Community: Partners in Safety

By Mark R. Rosekind

Getting the safety message out to the General Aviation community is a top NTSB priority. Today, I took those words to attendees of the ninth annual TBM Owners and Pilots Association convention in a presentation on managing fatigue risks in aviation operations.

Hundreds of people are killed every year in GA accidents and thousands more are injured. While the number of commercial aviation accidents has plummeted, GA has the highest accident rate in civil aviation–over 40 times greater than larger transport category operations. Unfortunately, the major causes of GA accidents remain the same and repeat the circumstances of previous accidents.

The TBM Owners and Pilots Association was founded for operators of Socata TBM planes that are high performance, single engine, turboprop light business and utility aircraft. The organization is dedicated to promoting safety to its members and is concerned about the GA safety risks posed by fatigue.

That concern is mutual. Fatigue has been on the NTSB’s radar for some time.

The NTSB has been increasingly focused on GA safety with numerous recommendations, reports, studies, and a forum on the subject. It is currently on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements and we have made over 200 recommendations on the issue, across all modes. Unfortunately, the connection between the two and the detrimental effects of flying while fatigued are well-documented in the agency’s work, and presentations like the one I gave today are essential to engaging this community as a partner in making GA flying as safe as it can be. While we have made strides in commercial aviation, so much more needs to be done in GA to address this known safety problem.

My presentation discussed: 1) fatigue as a safety risk in GA; 2) the physiological factors that create fatigue; and 3) the NTSB’s fatigue-related investigations and recommendations in aviation and all transportation modes.

Reducing GA fatality rates and injuries requires optimum pilot and maintenance personnel performance. This begins with good sleep and being alert. Even the world’s best and safest aircraft would be compromised if the pilot were not fully prepared for flight. Fatigue can slow reaction time, impede clear thinking, and impair good judgment. It degrades a pilot’s performance at all levels and places everyone at risk. Today, TBMOPA provided a good opportunity for its members to learn more about the safety risks associated with fatigue and actions they can take to enhance GA safety.

Mark Rosekind, Ph.D., is a Member of the National Transportation Safety Board. He is a frequent contributor to the NTSB blog.

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