A Ways to Go

From NAFI's Chair

A Ways to Go

In a recent conversation with a friend, we started comparing notes about aviation accidents and incidents in the news. I think it started as part of the conversation about last week's successful emergency landing of rapper Post Malone's Gulfstream G-IV after it lost two tires on takeoff from New Jersey's Teterboro Airport. The crew landed the jet safely at Stewart International Airport near Newburgh, New York after circling for several hours to burn off the fuel load it carried for its planned trip to London, England. This was nationwide news, due to the celebrity of the passenger and his entourage of about 16 souls, along with the fact that it was a "slow motion" emergency. That is, one that played out slowly enough to where the news services could get into position to cover it live.

From there, our conversation continued into the fact that there are a lot of incidents and accidents that don't rise to that level of public awareness, for whatever reason. I've become somewhat more aware of them due to social media. In the various groups to which I belong, there are many stories from around the world where we share what has happened recently, all too often sharing condolences.

All of this, though, is anecdotal and I became curious about what might have happened during a typical summer week. As some of you may know, the FAA posts preliminary accident and incident reports for the last 10 business days by clicking here. The difficulty is that the data for weekends and holidays, as well as reports of incidents that may have just been entered are posted on the business days, skewing the summaries. However, it is possible to download a comma-delimited file (CSV) and play with it in whatever analytical tool suits you.

For this exercise, I took the week of August 20 - 26 and summed the data by FAR part, incident, accident, and fatality. Now before I go any further, this is not an attempt to compete with the excellent Nall Report, and I'm using only preliminary information. This is merely an exercise comparing what I'd heard about versus what was reported during that time.

I was somewhat surprised by what I found - there were a total of 77 events reported to the FAA. Not surprisingly, the air carriers reported six non-fatal incidents, while Part 91 had 68, with 23 of those rising to the level of being considered accidents and five of those involving fatalities.

These are simply raw numbers, and there's no denominator such as estimated flight hours flown or number of flights so we can assess air carrier vs. General Aviation accident rates, which is something the Nall Report does very well.   I also did not even attempt to sort out what might have been business GA vs. instructional or personal flying, something else the Report does very well.

With that, I believe that this has been a useful exercise, and I encourage you to try it yourself. Because the data is recent and details such as location, date, type of aircraft, etc. is visible in the file, there's an immediacy to the information so that can be somewhat startling, versus FAASTeam presentations and the data in the Report which show the information summarized annually.

The fact that GA had so many incidents and accidents in one recent week was sobering. It reminds me that, no matter how good we've gotten as instructors, we still have a long way to go.

Bob Meder,
NAFI Board Chair
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