Alaska Aviation Deaths Drop By Half

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Eleven people died in Alaska aviation accidents in 2012, down from 21 deaths the year before, continuing a steady drop in aviation fatalities in the state, the Alaska Dispatch reported this week. Several safety initiatives were cited as likely contributing to the improvement, including efforts by the FAA Safety Team office in Alaska, which has promoted education for both operators and passengers. The state also has distributed many more weather-cams in remote areas to help inform pilots about weather conditions. Pilots have been encouraged to use shoulder harnesses, airbags and even helmets to prevent injury. ADS-B technology also has helped to prevent accidents.

NTSB Alaska Chief Clint Johnson told the Dispatch, "In the 15-year timeframe since I've been here, we've seen a steady decline in the sheer number of accidents. When I first started, it seemed like every single weekend we were going out on multiple fatals out on the Yukon or somewhere." Improvements are still needed in search-and-rescue technology, Johnson said. He told the Dispatch that many aircraft in Alaska are still flying with the old 121.5 emergency locator transmitters, instead of the newer and more reliable 406 ELTs. However, he said some operators do use consumer technology such as Spidertracks or Spot that uses GPS to track aircraft. AVweb's Mary Grady visited Alaska in 2004, when many of these safety strategies were just getting started; click here for that report.

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