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'USA Today' GA Safety Investigation Ignites Controversy

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A USA Today story titled "Unfit For Flight" on the safety record of general aviation aircraft has painted a picture of government and industry inaction and coverup on what its author Thomas Frank calls "a massive and growing death toll from small aircraft crashes." The extensive article, which appears in the June 18 paper and online, alleges that there are "hidden defects" in general aviation aircraft and that only 15 percent of small aircraft crashes are "investigated thoroughly." Frank writes that "Wide-ranging defects have persisted for years as manufacturers covered up problems, lied to federal regulators and failed to remedy known malfunctions."  The General Aviation Manufacturers' Association was the first to react (PDF) and it did so strongly.

In a news release, GAMA President Pete Bunce called the story "sensationalistic" and said it ignores the myriad advances in GA safety that have been implemented, the declining fatal accident rate and the exhaustive certification process for aircraft. Bunce also points to the Small Airplane Revitalization Act that will streamline the addition of modern equipment and features to legacy aircraft on the recommendations of the Part 23 Aviation Rulemaking Committee. More reaction and analysis will be coming as other aviation groups weigh in.

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