NTSB: GA Fatalities Level; More Bird-Strike Measures Needed

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The NTSB on Tuesday released its annual compilation of transportation fatalities, and reported that in 2008 aviation-related deaths increased slightly to 572, from 550 in 2007. Nearly 87 percent of those fatalities occurred in general aviation accidents (495), which was almost unchanged from the previous year (496). The other deaths occurred in air taxi operations (66), airlines (3), and foreign or unregistered aircraft (8). Commuter airlines were fatality-free in 2007. "We at the NTSB will continue to press hard advocating improvements in all modes of transportation to keep this trend moving in the right direction," said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman. "Every transportation fatality is an unnecessary tragedy." Also on Tuesday, the board issued several safety recommendations asking the FAA to take action to prevent bird-strike accidents. The FAA should ensure that GA airports near woods, wetlands, or water comply with the wildlife-hazard assessments they are required to perform, the NTSB said. Also, aircraft manufacturers should be required to develop guidance for pilots to minimize bird-strike damage, such as airspeed charts that show the safest speeds to fly when in areas of known bird activity.

The NTSB would also like to make it mandatory for all wildlife strikes to be reported to the FAA database, which is now voluntary. The NTSB also asked the FAA to require that all flight plans identify the operator and specify the operating rules under which the flight is being conducted. The NTSB would also like the FAA to require that all cockpit voice recorders be checked periodically to verify that the audio is being recorded properly, is intelligible, and is free from electrical noise or other interference. Several other recommendations addressed charter operations.