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Experimental Fatal Accidents Exceed FAA Not to Exceed Level for 2011

Experimental Accident Dashboard
Final measurement of experimental safety performance. Larger view

AB-FY11 Chart

October 6, 2011 – The FAA set a Not to Exceed (NTE) level of 70 fatal experimental aircraft accidents for the fiscal year 2011 that ended on September 30. Unfortunately, that did not happen as the year ended with 73 fatal accidents, up from 65 the year before. The FAA number includes all sub categories of experimental aircraft including amateur-built (AB), E-LSA, racing, exhibition, R&D, and market survey.

FAA’s FY11 total includes the highly modified P-51 Reno accident, a Gulfstream 650, Sikorsky S58P R&D aircraft, exhibition aircraft accidents during aerobatics at air shows, and a fatality in a Christen Eagle amateur-built flown by a foreign certificated pilot in an air show in Indonesia.  Nine of the 10 E-LSAs were formerly exempted “fat-ultralight” aircraft that met no design standard or the majority rule for amateur-built aircraft (built for recreation or education).

The FAA does not separate AB accidents from the larger experimental category and that gives a less-than-accurate picture of the safety of AB planes. Fatal accidents in AB aircraft reached 51 in FY11, which is a slight uptick from last year but similar to the numbers over the last five years. Meanwhile an average of 1,000 aircraft are added to the fleet per year.

“Even though the fatal accident total is comparable to the past five years, it’s frankly too many. The NTE level is a number used by internal FAA management, but whether we end up below, at, or above, we must do better,” said EAA Government and Advocacy Specialist David Oord. “The yearly total is a number but each is a fatal accident in which we lost our friends, our family, and our fellow aviators. “

Although the subcategories of experimental aircraft have very different operational characteristics and levels of associated risk, they are all included in the FAA metric. EAA would prefer each category, especially amateur-built, to have its own metric to reflect the complexities and differences inherent in each subset.

“EAA is committed to reducing the number of aviators lost by increasing safety, fostering professionalism, and encouraging pilots to keep their flying skills proficient,” Oord said.

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