'USA Today' Story Evokes Strong Response

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General aviation advocacy groups were quick to respond today to an extensive report in Wednesday's USA Today, "Unfit for flight," which is critical of GA safety. AOPA called the article "deeply flawed," and said AOPA staffers had spoken to reporter Thomas Frank for an hour last week, but the article doesn't mention AOPA's contention that GA safety is making progress. "The article leads one to believe that general aviation is an unsafe form of transportation," said AOPA, "…[but] according to the National Transportation Safety Board, the number of fatalities has declined by over 40 percent since the early 1990s." GAMA also released a statement Wednesday morning, labeling the story "sensationalistic."

GAMA President Pete Bunce cites efforts now underway to improve safety, such as the recent success in working with the FAA to expedite the approval of angle-of-attack indicators for GA aircraft, and the ongoing progress toward rewriting the rules to certify Part 23 aircraft so it will be easier to upgrade the fleet with newer, safer technology. The USA Today series "fails to acknowledge the significant progress general aviation manufacturers have made to improve safety," Bunce said. In a podcast interview with AVweb on Wednesday, Bunce added that legislators already have supported the changes to Part 23 and he doesn't think they'll see more regulation as the solution. "We're on a good path toward safety," he said. 

AOPA's statement noted that President Obama has signed the Small Airplane Revitalization Act into law, directing the FAA to implement the recommendations by December 2015, but "that, too, was omitted from Mr. Frank’s story, though we and others spoke extensively with him about it." EAA said  the story was "an incomplete and misleading piece of reporting that misrepresents actual GA safety trends and the community’s own recommendations to further improve that safety record." EAA Chairman Jack Pelton said the distortion appears to be deliberate. “Unfortunately, the article’s title ‘Unfit for Flight’ perhaps would have been more accurate as ‘Unfit for Print,’” Pelton said on EAA's Web site. “The fear-pandering article gives an impression of an unchecked world of flight operations. In fact, general aviation’s airworthiness directive system administered by FAA, which adds safety requirements to new and previously produced aircraft and powerplants, has the force of law and holds aviation to higher standards than any other mode of transportation in the country.”