Pilot Errors Decline, But Maintenance Mistakes Steady, Report Says

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An analysis of NTSB crash data by USA Today this week showed that pilots are blamed less often than they used to be, while the incidence of maintenance errors has stayed the same. Improved training and better cockpit warning systems have helped pilots to deal with problems that might have proved fatal in the past, the report said. Pilot error is still the number-one cause (50 percent) of accidents, but maintenance comes in second. More than 30 percent of accidents from 1997 through 2001 were caused at least in part by maintenance mistakes, USA Today said. But some may feel the "analysis" fell short. USA Today's report says that maintenance accounts for 30 percent of accidents, and pilot error for half, but did not account for the remaining 20 percent. The newspaper evaluated the 158 most severe crashes on commercial aircraft with 15 or more seats from 1980 through 2001, and interviewed more than two dozen aviation analysts. The criteria for selecting the 158 "most severe" crashes was not clearly defined.