June 18, 2014 – Wednesday’s USA Today report that describes “a massive and growing death toll” from general aviation accidents is an incomplete and misleading piece of reporting that misrepresents actual GA safety trends and the community’s own recommendations to further improve that safety record.
Thomas Frank’s article uses sweeping generalizations, cherry-picked statistics, unbalanced comparisons, and unattributed figures to claim that private aviation is an inherently dangerous activity. AOPA and GAMA were also among aviation organizations that immediately denounced the article.
“Unfortunately, the article’s title ‘Unfit for Flight’ perhaps would have been more accurate as ‘Unfit for Print,’” said EAA chairman Jack Pelton. “The fear-pandering article gives an impression of an unchecked world of flight operations. In fact, general aviation’s airworthiness directive system administered by FAA, which adds safety requirements to new and previously produced aircraft and powerplants, has the force of law and holds aviation to higher standards than any other mode of transportation in the country.”
Pelton also noted that the reporter spent extended time with representatives of GA organizations while gathering information on the story, but chose to include only a single passing comment from GAMA in the published article.
“That is simply sloppy reporting, or journalism that fills in the blanks to reach a predetermined narrative. There was so much that was missed,” he said. “EAA has joined with the GA community in substantial actions and recommendations that have significantly improved safety while maintaining the freedom and convenience that personal flight provides.”
Missed in the article, for instance, was the 40 percent drop in general aviation fatalities since the early 1990s; any mention of the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee that has worked with the FAA to create major, measurable steps toward enhancing GA safety trends; and the Part 23 reform that was signed into law last year as part of the Small Airplane Revitalization Act, which includes specific safety recommendations that must be enacted by December 2015 by the FAA.
“EAA is happy to have the conversation about GA safety and the remarkable advancements that have taken place,” Pelton said. “Reporting such as this hinders the opportunity to have that conversation, because of the tainted picture that was painted. We will continue to educate and welcome those who want to discover aviation, even in the face of misguided reporting such as what we’ve seen here.”