The most serious fixed-wing general aviation accidents tend to be repeated every year in any given country or region, hence the current empirical research into ways of changing training that might bring accident figures down. In the USA, for example, more pilots are killed during low-level "manoeuvring flight" - buzzing a place on the ground for fun or to show off - than at any other flight phase.

The US Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association's (AOPA) Air Safety Foundation (ASF) executive director Bruce Landsberg says the problem is that pilots continue to take risks despite advice to the contrary.

Fatal accidents during "buzzing" are a relentless annual fact, according to the ASF's annual Nall report. But continuing a visual flight rules (VFR) trip into deteriorating weather - known as "scud running" when it takes place below a lowering cloudbase - represents the highest risk to a pilot's life per flying hour, according to US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and UK Civil Aviation Authority statistics. The latter is common to all countries where the weather can be quirky and difficult to forecast, especially in terms of highly localised meteorological effects.

When a flight under VFR into instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) results in a crash, it is usually fatal, and the event can almost always be classified under one of two accident categories: controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) or loss of control (LOC). In Australia, where the weather in most parts is less quirky, the most consistent accident causes, according to the Air Transport Safety Bureau, are poor flight planning, aircraft handling problems, and fuel starvation or exhaustion. But the most common resultant fatal accident categories in Australia are still loss of control (43%) and controlled flight into terrain (32%).

Source: Flight International