Saturday, April 2, 2016

Fatal U.S. Small Plane Accidents Declined in 2015: Industry officials expect dramatic improvements this year as regulatory changes take effect

The overall number of fatal crashes of small planes fell about 5% from the year before, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Here, a Beech C24R Sierra plane crashed at the Georgia Club golf course in Statham, Georgia, on December 20, 2015, killing the pilot.



The Wall Street Journal
By ANDY PASZTOR
April 2, 2016 5:02 p.m. ET


The rate of fatal accidents involving small airplanes in the U.S. declined slightly last year, despite years of escalating efforts by industry and safety regulators to dramatically reduce private aircraft crashes.

In the data released Friday by the Federal Aviation Administration, there were 11.3 deadly general aviation accidents per one million flight hours during the fiscal year ending last September, roughly 3% below the three-year average.

The overall number of such accidents declined roughly 5% from the year before, while total fatalities fell nearly 12%. Those statistics cover everything from home-built aircraft to single-engine, propeller-driven planes to noncommercial turboprops.

However, industry officials say 2016 will usher in regulatory changes that are anticipated to result in more dramatic improvements. The revisions, among other things, are intended to accelerate installation of enhanced safety systems on private planes and ensure that new pilots have the necessary practical skills and theoretical knowledge.

This year could “really be a milestone” for general aviation because the FAA is slated to complete far-reaching “changes in how we certify both pilots and airplanes,” according to Jens Hennig, vice president of operations for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, the segment’s primary trade group.

Such strategic moves “are the types of changes that can make a marked improvement in safety,” Mr. Hennig, who is a member of various expert advisory groups, said in an interview Saturday.

The most recent results, which were circulated among government and industry experts and put out on the FAA’s website, still meet the agency’s internal performance benchmarks and document a slight improvement after what the FAA said were “relatively static” numbers stretching back to the beginning of the decade.

The modest improvement, however, highlights the continuing challenges in significantly reducing the frequency of fatal accidents for the approximately 200,000 private aircraft registered nationwide.

The goal for the government and industry is to slice the fatal-accident rate by 10% between 2009 and 2018. So far, private aviation has largely relied on the same type of consensus-based, voluntary safety initiatives that have helped U.S. airlines and the FAA eliminate fatalities stemming from commercial plane crashes over the past eight years.

Airliners world-wide last year had a rate of less than two major accidents per million flight hours, but without a single passenger fatality on a jetliner stemming from pilot error, aircraft malfunctions, weather or other accidental causes, according to the International Air Transport Association.

With the release of its data, the FAA stressed that various initiatives are under way in conjunction with manufacturers and pilot organizations to target the root causes of accidents.

Until the new rules fully take effect, however, safety experts will continue to emphasize pilot education to prevent accidents, particularly in which aviators stall aircraft or otherwise get overwhelmed in perfectly functioning planes. These “loss of control” accidents account for nearly half of all fatal crashes involving general aviation nationwide.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board recently identified reducing such crashes as one of its top 10 priorities, citing that pilots and passengers “die at alarming rates every year due to a loss of control.”

Industry and government experts have identified more than two dozen safety enhancements, ranging from training to hardware, to combat loss of control accidents. On a wider scale, the FAA and general aviation groups are beginning to use voluntary safety reports to pinpoint and try to mitigate budding hazards. General aviation accidents and incidents are now being incorporated into broader, industrywide databases “to identify trends and look for system risks,” according to the FAA.

At a “safety summit” between the FAA and private-aviation representatives in Washington on Thursday, Michael Whitaker, the agency’s No. 2 official, said the private-aviation segment’s fatal accident rate was beginning to decline, yet still more than 380 people died in general aviation crashes last year.

“While we still have more work to do,” said Mr. Whitaker, “government and industry are building on our momentum and commitment to improve general aviation safety.”

Original article can be found here:  http://www.wsj.com



NTSB Identification: ERA16FA075
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Sunday, December 20, 2015 in Winder, GA
Aircraft: BEECH C24R, registration: N2074P
Injuries: 1 Fatal.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.

On December 20, 2015, about 1430 eastern standard time, a Beech C24R, N2074P, was destroyed when it impacted trees and terrain in Winder, Georgia. The private pilot, the sole occupant, was fatally injured. The airplane took off from Jackson County Airport (19A), Jefferson, Georgia at 1359 eastern standard time. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the flight to Barrow County Airport (WDR), Winder, Georgia. The airplane was owned by Bryant and Bryant Aviation Inc. The personal flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91.

Preliminary information from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed that the flight originated at Gwinnett County-Briscoe Field, (LZU) Lawrenceville, Georgia, earlier during the day of the accident and flew to 19A, where the pilot made one practice approach and then flew towards his intended destination of WDR.

Several witnesses observed the airplane flying overhead and watched as it contacted the tops trees adjacent to a fairway at a golf course. They stated the left wing was low and the airplane was losing altitude "very quickly." Also, the airplane impacted nose first and flipped 180 degrees, facing in the opposite direction. In addition, one witness stated the engine was sputtering prior to impact.

Examination of the airplane at the accident site revealed that the landing gear was down, and the flaps were in the full up position. The propeller showed no signs of power, no twisting gouges or nicks were present on any of the blades. Two propeller blades were bent aft near the hub and one propeller blade was straight. There was no smell of fuel on scene, however the left fuel tank was breached in several areas and the right tank was dented. Both fuel tanks were empty upon further examination. During the initial examination of the engine and airframe, there were no anomalies noted. Cable continuity was established to all flight control surfaces from the cockpit.

According to FAA records, the pilot held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single-engine land, airplane multi-engine land, and instrument airplane, which was issued on October 23, 2014. He also held an FAA third-class medical certificate, issued February 4, 2015. At the time of the medical examination, the pilot reported 7,000 total hours of flight experience.

The four-seat, low-wing, tricycle gear airplane, serial number MC608, was manufactured in 1978. It was powered by a Lycoming IO-360-A1B6, 200-horsepower engine, equipped with a three-bladed McCauley propeller, Model B3D36C429. Review of maintenance records revealed that the airplane's most recent annual inspection was completed on June 10, 2015. At that time, the airframe had accumulated about 3,926 total hours of operation and the engine had accumulated 477 hours since major overhaul.

The airframe and engine were retained for further examination.

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