General Aviation Safety

General Aviation Safety

There were 556 U.S. fatalities in 2004 caused by general aviation, amounting to 88 percent of all aviation fatalities in the United States [1]. However, general aviation has become safer between 1994 and 2004. Despite a 16 percent increase in general aviation flight hours during the period, fatalities declined by 24 percent (figure 3-10). In 1994, there were 3.3 general aviation fatalities for every 100,000 flight hours (figure 3-11). By 2004, that rate had fallen to 2.2 per 100,000 flight hours. The total number of general aviation accidents and fatal accidents declined from 1994 to 2004 by 20 and 23 percent, respectively (figure 3-12).

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) often establishes more than one cause or factor to an aviation accident using three broad categories: personnel, environment, and aircraft. There were 1,758 general aviation accidents in 20001 for which NTSB has established causes. Personnel was cited as a cause or factor in 89 percent of those accidents, environment was cited in 45 percent, and the aircraft in 29 percent. Within the broad categories: the pilot was responsible in 95 percent of accidents where personnel was the cause or factor, weather was attributed to 47 percent of accidents where the environment was a factor,2 and in accidents where the aircraft was a factor, 47 percent of the time it could be attributed to the powerplant/propulsion system [2].

Runway incursions are another safety concern in general aviation. Of the 1,804 runway incursions between 1999 and 2003, just fewer than 75 percent of them involved general aviation aircraft. The rate of runway incursions involving general aviation aircraft per million operations increased from 6.0 in 1999, reaching a 5-year high in 2001 at 8.3 runway incursions per million operations. The rate fell back to 6.2 runway incursions per million operations in 2003 [4].


1. National Transportation Safety Board, Aviation Accident Statistics, tables 5, 8, 9, and 10, available at, as of July 2005.

2. ______. Aviation Statistical Reports, Annual Review of Aircraft Accident Data (Washington, DC: 2004), also available at, as of March 2005.

3. U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, NASDAC Review of NTSB Weather-Related Incidents, available at, as of March 2005.

4. ______. Runway Safety Report (Washington, DC: Annual issues), also available at, as of March 2005.

1 At the time this report was prepared, 2000 was the most recent year for which these data were available.

2 NTSB specifically studied weather as a factor in general aviation accidents from 1991 to 2001. The board found that 21 percent of these accidents were weather related [3].