FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said at EAA AirVenture on Wednesday that the homebuilt community needs to do a better job of preventing accidents. "Last year, amateur-built aircraft accounted for 25 percent of all general aviation accidents," he said. "But the troubling number here is that they represent only 10 percent of GA aircraft. We're trying to change that trend." Many accidents seem to happen in the transition time after a new owner buys an aircraft from the original builder, Babbitt said, and he would like to see an effort to ensure that new owners get thoroughly trained in the performance and characteristics of the aircraft. He also said the GA numbers overall are not where they should be, with 120 fatal accidents already this year.
Babbitt, a former airline pilot, also reprised his emphasis on professionalism for pilots at all levels. "This is not something we can regulate," he said. "It's up to every pilot to go that extra mile, to take recurrent training. Take that extra step and bring that accident rate down." Babbitt also said the advantages of NextGen for the GA pilot will be substantial, providing improved weather and traffic information in the cockpit. He said he's not too worried about the cost of the gear to GA pilots, since they have 10 years to comply, and they have the choice to opt out. Most pilots, if they look at the advantages of the upgrades, will decide that the level of safety the system provides will justify the cost, he said.