USA Today and its lead writer, Frank Thomas, have published a series of articles attacking general aviation safety, and the most recent condemnation is linked below. As with previous critiques, this report dissects litigated accidents. From that retrospective trend line, this segment of flying is labeled “unsafe.” Both the General Aviation Manufacturers Association and the National Business Aviation Association, among others have published strong, fact-based rebuttals. The above photograph suggests that there are governmental and private efforts to improve GA safety.
Rather than focus on what may or may not have happened in the past, it is more relevant to the discussion of GA safety to examine what is being done to enhance aviation safety. Coincidentally, all of these developments were announced about the same time as the “Safety Last” series.
- Elbit Systems recently unveiled a number of developments of its ClearVision and ClearVision EVS systems. The first will allow a pilot landing with a 1,000-foot runway visual range (RVR), equating roughly to a 50-foot decision height. The second enhancement, using synthetic vision system (SVS) imagery plus flight data symbology and combined vision system (CVS), facilitates the pilot’s ability to see the landing in diminishing light and weather conditions.
- Safe Flight Instrument, a private US firm with a history of designing improved aircraft instruments, unveiled an aircraft-based icing conditions detector (ICD) system using a combination of optical detection and a shielded temperature probe. Aircraft icing has been a bane of GA aircraft; this invention will greatly enhance this segment’s operating safety.
- The FAA is engaged in a massive restructuring of the US airspace, transferring the ATC from ground to spaced based systems. The critical equipment for aircraft to effectively fly within the NextGen technology. The problem is that AOPA, in particular, has asserted that the price of the key component, the ADS-B and ADS Out, is too expensive for its members. Garmin announced a new Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) solution that meets FAA requirements for ADS-B Out while delivering traffic and subscription-free weather to mobile devices at a price as low as $3,995. At such a price point, this important safety tool may propagate the GA fleet with this link to safety information.
These are but a few of the innovations for which the GA industry is constantly searching. There will be more, thanks in part to the General Aviation Revitalization Act, which among several provisions, placed a practical limitation on product liability claims, in particular, GARA prohibited liability proof from using “back casting”, i.e. citing new aviation engineering improvements to find fault with earlier designs. That legislation served as a stimulus to investment in research and new aircraft. Mr. Frank’s sole focus on past issues is reminiscent of the plaintiff litigators who were proficient at this now banned tactic.
Is General Aviation perfect? No, the statutory and regulatory premises of this flying (14 CFR Parts 23 and 91) are designed to provide greater flexibility. Mr. Franks sole reliance on old accidents allows him to conclude that GA is unsafe. By ignoring the future he does not report accurately what is really happening in this now vibrant and increasingly safe segment of flight.
ARTICLE: Safety Last: Lies, coverups mask roots of small plane carnage
PRESS RELEASE: GAMA Responds to Latest Sensationalistic USA Today Story on General Aviation Safety
PRESS RELEASE: NBAA Responds to USA Today’s Latest Distortions About General Aviation Safety
TECHNOLOGY SAFETY ADVANCES: