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Amateur-Built Accident Rate Drops to New Low in 2017

October 4, 2018 — According to the recently finalized results of the 2017 General Aviation and Part 135 Activity Survey (GA Survey), pilots of experimental amateur-built (E-AB) aircraft were involved in fatal accidents at a lower rate than has ever been recorded, with 2.63 fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours last year. This breaks the record set the previous year, when E-AB pilots were involved in 3.6 fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours.

Although the number of fatal accidents involving E-AB aircraft dropped from 32 in calendar-year 2016 to 26 in 2017, the estimated number of hours flown by amateur-builts rose from about 890,000 to approximately 950,000. Despite dips that correspond with periods of economic difficulty, the figure for E-ABs has remained stable between 800,000 and 1,000,000 hours since 1999, and amateur-built aircraft are claiming an ever-growing share of personal flying hours each year.

Light-sport aircraft flight time also hit record numbers in 2017, with special light-sport aircraft (S-LSA) breaking 200,000 flight hours for the first time on record. Experimental light-sport aircraft (E-LSA) added its own robust total, with LSA of all types recorded approximately 348,000 hours. The GA Survey has recorded a 19 percent growth in light-sport aircraft activity over the past decade.

“These statistics show that growth and safety are not mutually exclusive in our community,” said Sean Elliott, EAA vice president of advocacy and safety. “We are immensely proud of the progress we have made, but we’re not done yet and never will be. We cannot afford to be complacent. EAA will continue to be highly engaged in initiatives and programs to enhance aviation safety.”

In addition to the good news on the 2017 accident rate, the preliminary count shows that experimental accidents in FAA fiscal year 2018, which ended on Sunday, came in below the FAA not-to-exceed goal for fatal accidents. This would be the fourth year in a row that the experimental community outperformed this safety benchmark.