First the good news: More pilots and specifically a lot more student pilots. The facts and stats of GAMA indicate that the pilot population is not only ahead of the 15 year average (615,400) but hasn’t been this high for seven years. Strange that in 2009, instructors outnumbered active student certificates by 22,583. The 2010 increase is a significant development given the moribund economy.
The bad news is general aviation flight activity fell by 10 percent in 2009 but accidents dropped only 5 percent. Worse, even with reduced flight hours, we’re killing ourselves more often. The number of fatal accidents and the number of individual fatalities increased slightly to 233 and 401, The number of fatal accidents increased 4 percent. The Nall report has it all summarized. That’s why the FAA is launching a safety standdown which began April 2. As usual, the culprit is pilot error with the top ten listed as:
- Loss of Control in flight while maneuvering
- Loss of Control in flight during initial climb
- Aerodynamic stall or spin while maneuvering during low altitude flying
- Low altitude operation or event while maneuvering during low altitude flying
- Controlled Flight into Terrain/object (CFIT) during enroute cruise
- Aerodynamic stall or spin during initial climb
- Visual Flight Rules (VFR) encounter with IMC during enroute
- Loss of Control in flight during enroute cruise
- Loss of Control in flight while maneuvering during low altitude flying
- Collision with terrain or an object (non-CFIT) while maneuvering during low altitude
The ugly? General Aviation shipments continued to drop for the third straight year, decreasing 11.4% to 2,015 units in 2010. Piston deliveries were down 7.7% with 889 delivered. Turboprops declined 17.7%, with 363. Bizjets decreased 12.3% with 763 out the door. There’s good news though. As mentioned, the student pilot numbers are way up, flight activity is increasing and corporate profits + tax policy toward business aviation is expected to make this a growth year. It’s time to get aircraft manufacturers back in the black before another one gets sold to the Chinese.