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EAA Safety Efforts Noted in GAO's GA Report

Continued education key to further improvement

October 10, 2012 - The General Accounting Office (GAO) has recognized EAA's safety programs as key contributors in improving GA safety, particularly for experimental amateur-built aircraft.

The GAO late last week released its report, "General Aviation Safety: Additional FAA Efforts Could Help Identify and Mitigate Safety Risks," which the agency compiled at the request of members of Congress. The study looked at all segments of the GA community and interviewed those in both government agencies and organizations within the GA community. The GAO interviewed EAA representatives twice during the study period.

The report found that GA accidents have decreased over the past 20 years, but also found major differences between the types of that make up the GA community. As EAA has maintained, the current method of accounting for safety based on flight hours skews the data in favor of those operations that fly straight and level for hours at a time with only one takeoff and landing. For example, corporate operations differ greatly from the multiple takeoffs and landings that may take place during an hour of recreational flying - therefore, creating very different operational profiles and safety scenarios for the measurement of accidents when solely accounting for flight hours.

EAA was recognized by the GAO as one of the organizations that "actively promote the importance of safety and, in many cases, offer educational opportunities to pilots." The report also noted that "EAA offers advisory programs for experimental aircraft builders and pilots" as a way of promoting a safety culture and continuous education among its members.

"The GAO report states a number of areas that parallel EAA's recommendations for additional safety education, including improvement of GA flight-hour statistics gathering and use of the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee," said Sean Elliott, EAA's vice president of advocacy and safety. "The GAO recommendations regarding amateur-built aircraft mirror the recent NTSB report for that same category, which gives the community a real opportunity to emphasize that additional education, not regulations, will make the real difference in improving GA safety."

The report noted that the FAA has undertaken a five-year GA safety strategy, but developed that strategy without major input from GA stakeholders, such as those on the GA Joint Steering Committee (GA-JSC). The GA-JSC was re-formed in 2011 and has been studying accident factors with a view toward addressing some of those risks through additional safety education. EAA is an active member of that committee and its working group studying fatal accidents caused by loss of control.

The GAO also recommended several other actions to the FAA, including expanding data available on root causes of accidents, setting specific GA safety improvement goals through a data-driven risk management approach, and developing performance measures for the agency's safety programs and activities.

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