Is General Aviation Safe

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Is General Aviation Safe?

Smartass answer #1: Safe enuf for me

Smartass answer #2: Life is not safe.

Probably correct answer: No one knows for sure. Statistics show it is quite safe. How safe is safe, is quite personal.

Accident Statistics:

In 1996, a typical year, General Aviation had:
Accidents: 1,681 
Fatal Accidents:   323 (at least one person died, 20% of total)
Deaths:   578 

Of the fatal accidents (323), the largest number was due to collision with object or terrain which generally means gross pilot error (80). The next largest was non-mechanical engine failure which generally means running out of gasoline (19), followed by mechanical engine failure (14) and the scary mid-air collision (12). 

Comparing with Commercial Aviation:

Statistics of commercial aviation are almost meaningless, due to how small the number of accidents are. in 1996 there were 21 accidents, 3 were fatal and 270 people died. (Of these, TWA-800 caused 230 deaths).

For some other years, the death figures are: 
1993: 0     1994: 228    1995: 152

Traffic comparisons:

Commercial aviation (in the US) is huge - 20 companies, 4,000 aircraft, 20,000 flights a day, carrying 1.6 million people. General aviation is however, significantly larger.



Number of Aircraft 4,000 206,000 (140,000 privately owned)
Number of Pilots 40,000 600,000 (40,000 women)
Number of hours flown 13 million 31 million
Number of airports 800 20,000 (14,000 are private)
Distance Traveled 5 billion miles unknown
Passengers 1.6 million unknown - 6-8 million is a good guess

Note that the higher numbers of General Aviation flights and pilots make "exposure" higher and hence it seems that the number of deaths are not disproportionately higher.

Automobile Statistics:

If we move on to statistics about cars, the numbers becomes disastrous. In the year 2000 41,821 people died in car accidents and 3,189,000 people were injured. Of the deaths, 16,653 were due to alcohol related impairments and 9,873 due to rollovers.