By Jeff Marcus
For one week each year the control tower at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, becomes the busiest in the world when 10,000 airplanes fly in for the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture. EAA AirVenture is one of the largest airshows in the world, with more than 500,000 visitors arriving over the week. This large gathering of general aviation pilots and aviation enthusiasts offers NTSB a great opportunity to share important information about safety with the flying public, and I am excited to be a presenter at this year’s event.
During the week-long event, Chairman Christopher Hart, Member Earl Weener, and 10 NTSB staff will provide accident case studies, share lessons learned, and give presentations on various safety issues related to general aviation.
As in years’ past, the NTSB will host an information booth in the Federal Pavilion. NTSB personnel will be on hand to address questions related to our recommendations and what we have seen from our crash investigations. Additionally, during this week NTSB investigators will discuss the recent Safety Alert issued by the NTSB on “Arriving at Major Fly-In Events” and, in another session, steps for avoiding construction and maintenance errors for experimental aircraft. We also use this event as an opportunity to stay abreast of the latest industry developments, so we can remain smart about our own recommendations for safety improvements.
Many of the NTSB presentations at EAA AirVenture, including mine, will focus on the actions pilots must take to avoid loss of control accidents.
Loss of aircraft control is the most common cause of general aviation accidents. Between 2008 and 2014, about 47 percent of fatal fixed-wing general aviation accidents in the United States involved pilots losing control of their aircraft in flight, resulting in 1,210 fatalities. As a result, preventing loss of control in flight in general aviation is one of the issues on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements.
While airline accidents have become relatively rare in the United States, general aviation accidents occur at much higher rates than airline accidents. The rate of accidents has been declining in commercial aviation, but the general aviation accident rate has remained largely unchanged. The NTSB has investigated, on average, about 1,366 general aviation accidents each year over the last five years. We must change this deadly trend of accidents—and events like this give us an important opportunity to work toward that goal.
I will be making a presentation on several NTSB recommendations that address the underlying causes of some loss of control accidents, including:
- Incompatibilities of modifications to airplanes
- Guidance for amateur builders of kit airplanes
- Pilot knowledge of how their “glass cockpit” displays react to common failure modes like a blocked pitot tube
- Clarification of policies regarding the use of marijuana by general aviation pilots
- Information for pilots on the side effects of some common over-the-counter medications available without a prescription
- Impairments to pilot’s night vision caused by cataracts
The last three topics relate to Impairment and Medical Fitness for Duty, other concerns for the pilot community that are also on our Most Wanted List. Other NTSB presentations at EAA AirVenture will discuss additional safety issues related to loss of control accidents, including weather issues.
I look forward to attending and presenting at EAA AirVenture this year, and I encourage all pilots and aviation enthusiasts to attend, as well. If you will be attending, please stop by the NTSB booth in the Federal Pavilion or attend one of the NTSB presentations.
To view our complete schedule of presentations, visit our website.
Jeff Marcus is an aviation transportation safety specialist in NTSB’s Office of Safety Recommendations & Communications.