July 22, 2013

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has published the first of five planned general aviation (GA) safety videos on its YouTube channel, and each of the short presentations focuses on one of five leading causes of GA accidents.

The videos, part of a two-step offensive that began in March 2013 with five safety alerts, offer strategies and resources to help pilots and mechanics better identify and reduce the risks involved.

All five potential safety hazards stem from ineffective risk management based on unfortunate decision-making. GA is especially susceptible because the “responsibility for sound decision making is on one person’s shoulders,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman. “We are promoting and distributing the alerts to reach pilots and mechanics who can benefit from these lifesaving messages.”

As identified in the safety alerts, the most common defining events in GA accidents are:

  1. Not paying adequate attention to indications of aircraft mechanical problems.
  2. Reduced visibility, due to weather conditions or flying at night over sparsely lighted terrain. (The NTSB reports that about two-thirds of all GA accidents that occur in reduced-visibility weather conditions are fatal).
  3. Loss of control, especially failure to prevent – or recognize and recover from – an aerodynamic stall.
  4. Gaps in risk management: When several flight risks of marginal severity are not identified or effectively managed by the pilot.
  5. Mistakes made while performing aircraft maintenance and inspection.

The video series premiered with “Is Your Aircraft Talking to You? Listen!” As the video explains, ignoring the signs of a possible problem with the aircraft is the third-most-common defining event in a GA accident. In the video, NTSB Investigator Catherine Gagne – who is also a GA aircraft owner – gives examples of the subtle symptoms of a potential problem with the aircraft, such as low oil pressure. Look for these changes, she urges, recognize them, and act on them immediately, before a small problem becomes a life-threatening in-flight emergency.

The NTSB will debut the rest of the videos on its YouTube channel throughout July. Each year, the NTSB investigates an average of 1,500 GA accidents that kill about 475 pilots and their passengers, and the majority of them are related to one of these five issues presented in the videos.

“No pilot or mechanic knowingly accepts or pursues a life-threatening risk, but anyone who categorically says they would never do anything that might result in an accident has taken the first step toward just that outcome,” said NBAA’s Douglas Carr, vice president for safety, security, operations & regulation.“