Fri, Jul 27, 2012
NTSB Says The Solution Is Through Education, Not Regulation
By Tom Woodward
NTSB Chairman Debbie Hersman addressed a large crowd at Oshkosh Thursday concerning what has been described as an alarming accident rate among homebuilt kitplanes. The recently-completed study encompasses 10 years of data from 2000-2010.
Experimental aircraft comprise only 4 percent of the General Aviation hours flown, only 10 percent of the total GA fleet yet are responsible for 20 percent of the fatal accidents and I think we can all agree that this is unacceptable. What we might not agree on is the way to improve it. The majority of builders/flyers are experienced pilots, so why are the statistics so bad for the experimental group?
We know from the NTSB study that structural failures are rare and the leading cause of accidents are LOC (Loss of Control) and power plant failures. Most are on the first flight, about 10 percent, and about 11 percent are on the first flight after the purchase by the second owner. Many of the NTSB recommendations are targeted toward the Phase One flight testing with the implementation of a written Test Plan and then following up with recurrent training in type. Now the BIG question is how many of these recommendations will find their way into actual FAA regulations? Not that we all wouldn't relish more federal intervention into our lives, but will it really solve the problems?
Chairman Hersman said "The preferred way to address this is through policy and procedural changes best implemented with the cooperation of EAA and not through Federal regulations." One has to wonder if these are just words spoken but not actions taken, as we have heard this many times before. I don't know anyone flying who can quote all the FAR's, and one more rule won't keep those who don't study the FAR's from doing as they wish.
During the Q&A session, one attendee suggested that most of the changes recommended by the NTSB can be addressed by the EAA Flight Advisor program and EAA needs to encourage more first-flight pilots to avail themselves of their local EAA Flight Advisors. The issue of high accidents after the purchase by a second owner and the subsequent first flight, could be reduced if EAA had some document or checklist available online that would guide the seller (along with what's currently available for the buyer) on what to look for in a prospective buyer. Usually when selling an airplane you're happy to have a good check in your hand, and little research is done to ascertain the skill level of the buyer to operate your type of aircraft. A flight checkout in a multi-passenger airplane or at the very least a cockpit checkout in a single place would be advised. Review of all building documentation and operating limitations with the buyer would give the seller a piece of mind that the next guy doesn't become a
flaming meteor after the check clears. The more we can police ourselves by way of EAA, the less the FAA will get involved.
(Pictured, NTSB Chair Debbie Hersman (center), EAA's Rod Hightower (to her right), and memeber of the NTSB Recommendation Committee.)
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