Poll: How Can The Accident Rate Be Driven Down?


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  1. There are two questions hidden here.
    1) How can the overall accident rate for GA be driven down?
    2) Why are my friends dying in airplanes, even though they did everything right?

    Let’s start with the easier of the two. The FAA has demonstrated through it’s regulation of part 121, 135, and others, that the accident rate is a sliding scale, and that it has the knowledge (or at least the information exists) to reduce the accident rate. Currently the FAA sets the risk minimum for GA. Therefore, to reduce the accident rate would require the FAA to implement any number of risk mitigations, or for a large majority of the community to adopt them voluntarily.

    When it comes down to specific mitigations, it’s not too hard to pull out of the data what kinds of accidents kill pilots, the associated causes, and an effective mitigation. Some of these mitigations involve increasing costs; but aviation is already too expensive. Some of these mitigations can be implemented in the form of different operating procedures. Fortunately, part 91 operators are increasingly safety conscious and interested in becoming better pilots. Moreso if extra training can be directly translated to lower operating costs.

    Since I doubt pilot risk mitigation will have an effect on hangar fees or maintenance costs, best to start with insurance and taxes. I suggest a system of insurance and taxation which credits operators for implementing an established set of best practices. In this way, the FAA is no more strict than it always has been, but operators are monetarily incentivized and rewarded for implementing safer operating procedures, thus reducing the overall accident rate.

    Now the harder part… Even extremely experienced pilots can be killed doing the thing they love. Even with all their experience, and all the procedures they voluntarily implemented, sometimes the residual risk manifests; and there’s no real get out of jail free card. (ejection seats and airframe parachutes go part of the way, but they aren’t perfect either).

    It’s tempting to then give up on accruing experience and procedures for ourselves, as it clearly didn’t save the best among us. Let us not forget about all the other days that that those skills did save them, and others…or the days where lack of experience and/or sloppy procedures directly contributed to an accident. Everyone carries residual risk around with them. Anybody can still die on any day. But it’s not meaningless to reduce the chances on each day from 1.069 per 100,000 to 0.182 or 0.005. Everyone flying airplanes, knows someone that died in an airplane. We have the ability to do better than that.

    But all that is hollow succor to those grieving the fallen. For them, I’m sorry. I’ve been there. It’s hard. It’s painful. It sucks. Grief is about coming to terms with what was lost, what it meant to us, and how our life will be different now. How we will be different now. Part of that process in aviation means remembering that we all know flying has risks. But we love it, and do it anyway. Sometimes our loved ones take risks we don’t agree with. Sometimes they take risks we ourselves would have taken. And sometimes that risk manifests.
    I still love aviation, and I still trust myself and others to make their best judgements about risk. I still know that aviation is going to kill me or someone I care about. I’m still going flying tomorrow. I’ll see you out there.

  2. Want fewer accidents? Remove humans from the decision, and from operation of the aircraft. Eliminate the ‘alternate logic’ trap that got AF447. If the AI can’t do it, how likely is a scared cockpit crew saving the world against very steep odds?

  3. TECHNOLOGY has made transportation safer and will continue to make it safer. Horse and buggy was not a safe way to travel. Sailing ships safety record was very poor. The train was first invented and patented in 1784, by James Watt. 238 years later we are debating best practices to travel at 500 knots with zero accidents. I also agree that the “Human Factor” is not going away soon. Even after AI takes over the controls the individual only has one button in front of them, they will mess things up.