The accident rate varies among the various sectors of general aviation, says a new report from the Government Accountability Office, but without better data it's hard to tell what's really going on. For example, experimental amateur-built airplanes were involved in 21 percent of the fatal accidents reviewed, but accounted for only 4 percent of the estimated annual flight hours, while corporate operations flew about 14 percent of estimated annual flight hours but were involved in only about 1 percent of fatal accidents. Limitations in the data "preclude a confident assessment" of what those numbers really mean in regards to general aviation safety, the report states. The GAO said the FAA should find a way to collect more detailed data in ways that won't create a burden on the GA community.
Specifically, the report said the FAA should take the following actions: collect and maintain data on each pilot's recurrent training; improve measures of general aviation activity by requiring the FAA to collect flight-hour data at regular events that are already required, such as during registration renewals or annual maintenance inspections; and set specific general aviation safety improvement goals -- such as targets for fatal accident reductions -- for individual industry segments using a data-driven, risk-management approach. Officials from the Transportation Department "agreed to consider our recommendations," the report concludes. The full text of the report is posted online (PDF).