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US general aviation reports highest fatal accident rate since 1998

The US general aviation community reported the highest rate of fatal accidents since 1998 for last year, although the overall accident rate was only the seventh-highest during that 17-year period.

Figures released by the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in early August show that the rate of accidents is not declining even though the number of general aviation flight hours is lower than it has ever been.

The overall accident rate in general aviation rose by about 7% year on year to 6.74 per 100,000 flight hours in 2014, the NTSB says.

But the rate of fatal accidents jumped by 25% from 2013 to 2014, rising to 1.4 per 100,000 flight hours.

At the same time, the overall number of flight hours reported by general aviation pilots declined in 2014 to a new low of 18.1 million, down by 38% since a modern peak set in 1999 and by 7% compared with 2013.

The general aviation accident rate continues to track well above that of aircraft operated in the more heavily regulated Part 135 category, which reported an overall accident rate of 1.02 per 100,000 flight hours in 2014, including a rate of 0.23 fatal accidents.

General aviation remains the only segment in air transportation that is consistently targeted on the NTSB’s annual list of “most wanted” safety improvements, which are mainly focused on the rail, roadway and marine transportation sectors.

This year the NTSB highlighted the need to reduce the number of “loss of control” incidents in general aviation, in which pilots often stall at low speed while on final approach or immediately after take-off.

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