Analysis of US general aviation safety trends in 2007 shows an increase in manoeuvring accidents against the previous year. This accident category continues to dominate GA fatal crashes, as it has since 1999, according to the latest Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Nall report.

But the most lethal mistake pilots can make, says Nall, is a decision to continue a visual flight rules trip into instrument meteorological conditions. The chance of a resulting accident being fatal is 82%.

Manoeuvring accidents, says the report, are normally the result of pilot misjudgement while carrying out "high-risk manoeuvres that demonstrate questionable pilot judgement [and] others are attributable to deficiencies in basic airmanship". In 2007 they represented 20.2% of fatal crashes, but only 6.7% of all accidents.

Nall attributes a "fatality" index to each category, indicating the likelihood of death in the event of any given type of accident, and "manoeuvring", at 56%, is the second most lethal after weather-related crashes.

Weather-related accidents mostly involve a pilot decision to continue a VFR trip into IMC, says the Nall report.

Landing accidents are the most common GA mishaps, representing 30.5% of all incidents, but causing only 3.2% of fatalities. These are mostly the result of low experience or lack of currency. More modern aircraft types and a greater availability of basic simulation do not appear to be having a beneficial effect on this, says Nall.

Overall, says Nall, the accident rate was fairly steady at 6.7 per 100,000 flying hours, but it is up compared with 2006's rate of 6.06 and 2000's best ever of 6.03. Meanwhile, fatal accidents have been following a downward trend for the past three years, reaching 1.18 fatal accidents per 100,000 flying hours. The best rate was 1.11 in 1999.

Source: Flight International