USAToday’s Sensational Attack on General Aviation fails to tell the Whole Story

Share this article: FacebooktwitterlinkedinFacebooktwitterlinkedin


USAToday assigned 11 reporters who wrote 4,000 + words (below) sprinkled with an abundance of plaintive pictures and based on heavily documented reviews of a statistically unreliable number of specific cases. That article categorically condemns the General Aviation industry, the NTSB and the FAA. It further insinuates that there is some dark conspiracy to hide this segment’s faults. A lot of the writers’ conclusions were based on some limited “facts.” What the authors choose to include in their article and what they excluded is most telling.

The USAToday myopic picture portrayed is largely based on court cases. The authors fail to acknowledge some critical distinctions between the NTSB process and the goal of the court. The federal board is charged solely to find the “probable cause” of the accident. It is an engineering driven analysis which includes some of the globe’s best forensic investigators. Court cases are driven by lawyers and the process is designed to find fault and to identify those who can pay for these tragedies. The authors intimate some bias of the NTSB to find fault with the pilots; litigators know that the real money lies with the manufacturers.

The massive presentation neglects to mention the progress of the manufacturers and operators in improving their safety record. As noted in the AOPA (below) press release “the number of fatalities has declined by over 40 percent since the early 1990s.” The Aerospace Industries Association (see below) lists publically available statistics which reflect the current picture if GA’s performance:

Going back through five decades of accident data significantly distorts the marked decline in both fatal and non-fatal accidents that occurred from 1999 to 2011, with fatal accidents falling 24 percent and non-fatal accidents falling 29 percent over that time period according to GAO’s October 2012 report on general aviation safety.  In fact, according to the GAO, the majority of general aviation accidents result in no injuries at all – a far cry from USA Today’s screaming headlines.”

The authors ignored and failed to mention the significant information provided by the pilots’ association, the manufacturers’ associations and one of the manufacturers. Such ignoring of information suggests that the authors were driven by their bias and a headline intended to sell newspapers.

It is no news that there is room for improvement of GA safety:

· The FAA knows that and has dedicated a page listing the 15 major initiatives which it has sponsored to improve this record. .

· The NTSB has held hearings to examine how to improve this segment’s record; here is one example among many such forums .

· AOPA not only acknowledges that there is room for improvement, but sponsors multiple training options to help improve their members’ skills .

· NBAA (see below) also premises its comments on the overall room for improvement, but aggressively creates learning modules for its operators’ pilots and management, all designed to enhance its high level of safety.

· GAMA (see below) explains its members’ substantial investment to enhance the design and manufacturing of their airplanes.

Those recognitions of what can be done, what is being done and where GA was are vastly different from the USA Today conclusions and headlines say. A great muckraker, like Ida Tarbell, was known for her command of the facts. The sensationalism, which picks and chooses what its readers should read and excludes other salient facts ,will never be included in the Newseum.

ARTICLE: Safety last: Lies and coverups mask roots of small-plane carnage

Hidden defects linked to small-aircraft crashes over five decades, a USA TODAY investigation shows.

Thomas Frank , USA TODAY

PRESS RELEASE: USA Today Flying Blind

PRESS RELEASE: ‘USA Today’ report ‘extremely flawed,’ AOPA says

PRESS RELEASE: GAMA Responds to Sensationalistic USA Today Story on General Aviation Safety

PRESS RELEASE: NBAA Letter to USA Today Regarding Misleading Article Series “Unfit for Flight”

Share this article: FacebooktwitterlinkedinFacebooktwitterlinkedin