Homebuilt Safety Record Improves
For the 2017 fiscal year, there were 27 fatal accidents involving experimental category aircraft, down 18% from the prior year and down 47% over the last four years, says EAA, which is celebrating the trend. “These are historic lows for fatal accidents in amateur-built aircraft and this continuing trend is a credit to everyone who is focusing on safety,” said Sean Elliott, EAA vice president of advocacy and safety. “The overall fatal accident numbers remain much lower than other recreational pursuits, such as paddle sports, skiing and snowboarding, and driving all-terrain vehicles. Statistics even show that being involved in a fatal amateur-built aircraft accident is less likely than being killed in a lightning strike incident.”
The improvement in fatal accident frequency is compounded by the increase in total flight hours by experimental aircraft. The 2017 FAA Aerospace Forecast reports that experimental aircraft flight hours grew 1.4% annually from 2010 to 2016 and are predicted to keep growing more than 2% per year, while flight hours of certified piston singles are predicted to decline by roughly 1.5% per year. EAA credits some of the improvement with regulatory changes permitting safety pilots during initial flight testing of amateur-built aircraft, which were formerly flight tested by their builders, who were rarely qualified for test pilot duties.