US GA suffers mechanical failure blight

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The US Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association's annual safety analysis has highlighted a significant increase in general aviation crashes resulting from mechanical failure, and a reports a slight increase in the overall GA accident rates.

AOPA's annual Nall report reviews US general aviation safety data when the accident investigations have had time to establish causal factors, so this report refers to performance in 2009.

Non-commercial GA fixed-wing flight activity decreased 10% from 2008 to 2009, while the number of accidents dropped only 5%, from 1,241 to 1,181. The number of fatal accidents and the number of individual fatalities increased slightly to 233 and 401, respectively, so both the total and fatal accident rates on non-commercial fixed-wing flights increased in 2009.

Meanwhile, the Nall report finds that accidents due to mechanical causes happened at a significantly higher rate in 2009, reaching an all-time record high proportion of 17% of all non-commercial fixed-wing accidents.

Amateur-built aircraft continued to have significantly higher rates of fatal and non-fatal accidents than comparable type-certificated aircraft, suffering particularly from greater numbers of mechanical failures and unexplained losses of engine power. More than half the fatal mechanical accidents were in amateur-built aeroplanes.

Personal flights accounted for less than half of all non-commercial fixed-wing flight time, but suffered three out of every four accidents and nearly 85% of fatal accidents. A significant number of these accidents to private flights, however, involved pilots with commercial or airline licences.

Nall reports an improvement in the commercial sector of GA. The total number of accidents on commercial fixed-wing flights decreased by one-third compared with 2008, and there were only two fatal accidents, which represent an 88% decrease from the previous year.

The fatal accident rate of 0.07 per 100,000 hours flown was the lowest on record; the only two fatal commercial fixed-wing accidents occurred on aerial application flights and the only victims were the pilots.