The National Transportation Safety Board’s Chairman Deborah Hersman and her fellow Board Members are holding a two day hearing to examine the General Aviation (GA) accident rate which was increased by 20% since 2000. As the Business Week article makes clear, a lot of what’s causing GA accidents relates to basics—pilots need to concentrate on the simple, yet demanding tasks associated with flying airplanes. A joint government/industry task force, the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee, reviewed the records and concluded that the simple stuff was the source of the GA accidents. The examples cited included– improper weight and balance procedures, failure to properly assess the weather and failing to adhere to the aircraft limitations.
Despite safety advances made in other sectors of aviation, GA does not seem to benefit from learning from others past mistakes and as Yogi Berra said “If you keep doing what you’re doing…you’re going to keep getting what you got!”
Negative aviation safety trends all too frequently result in overreactions but in the case of the GA community something needs to change that does not include new rules and requirements. Bruce Landsberg, AOPA Air Safety Institute, pointed out that
“I don’t think you can crash an airplane unless you have broken one and possibly two regulations,” Landsberg said. “If everyone flew to the private-pilot practical test standards, we would have a pretty good system.”
He rightfully concluded that further regulation is, therefore, unnecessary.
To address the GA accident rate the approach to training pilots needs to examined. Back to basics is a well reasoned, restrained and appropriate response to a very perplexing problem and whose theme has been frequently repeated.
A way to bolster the training skills for new and even experienced GA pilots is by implementing a Virtual Flight Academy (VFA), which hopefully could be established and managed by AOPA. The VFA would have the following components:
- The core virtual infrastructure that includes the specific knowledge needed to obtain a pilot certificate.
- The Academy – E-learning based on the airplane platform
- Training & Practice – This includes all the basic operations and control and has specific emergency and automatic response training. All exercises are simulated and show real life incidents.
- Support Center – Link to expert advice and guidance.
- Data processing center –progress control and measurements for instructors and students.
- Recurrent and upgrade training
This model, which has a proven track record of success in training military aviators in other countries, would be more effective in producing better skilled pilots than the traditional ways of training pilots and at a substantially lower cost.