Monday, June 23, 2014

General aviation industry pursues safety: Your Say

USA TODAY's investigative report "Unfit for flight" found repeated instances in which small-aircraft crashes were caused by defects and dangerous designs. Letters to the editor: 

Your investigative report "Unfit for flight" presents a greatly distorted view of general aviation. The story cites 44,407 general aviation deaths in 50 years, and the claim of "carnage" and a "massive and growing death toll."
The report declines to note that more than half of those deaths happened more than 30 years ago. In fact, National Transportation Safety Board figures show that there has actually been a 75% decrease in fatalities from 1973 to today. In 2012 alone, general aviation aircraft flew nearly 25 million flight hours. General aviation — and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association — have been aggressive in pressing the FAA to make it easier and more affordable for new technology and safety equipment to be installed in the existing fleet of general aviation aircraft.

The results can be seen in a safety record that has greatly improved over time, which your articles simply ignored. USA TODAY's snapshots of court cases and inflammatory headlines frankly do nothing to improve aviation safety. They only distort the true picture.

Mark Baker, president, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association; Frederick, Md.

In light of my previous negative experience working in industries affected by regulatory agencies, I have been following your series "Unfit for flight" intently. These agencies, overwhelmingly stuffed with executives and cronies from the very industries being regulated, are really there to promote their industry, not to protect the public.

There is some weight to the argument that these corporate insiders' technical expertise is needed to make wise regulatory decisions. However, wouldn't it be better to have these agencies staffed by representatives of the public they serve, with only a few subject-matter experts from the industry being regulated? Perhaps such a solution is too "populistic" for today's age of corporate bullyhood.

Vernon M. Kerr; Ellicott City, Md.

I love USA TODAY for your exposés. The "Unfit for flight" series was one of your best. It was a real eye-opener on an issue that I wasn't aware of at all. I'll be more cautious about private flying from now on. Thank you.

Bob Bowser; Flagstaff, Ariz.

Comments from Facebook are edited for clarity and grammar:

As a former military pilot, I was stunned by the ignorance of this so-called investigative piece. Often, the primary cause of aircraft accidents is not the aircraft but the pilot. Many private pilots have barely enough flight time to do little more than fly around in a pattern. Any unusual situation occurs, and they are in trouble.

— Robert Newman

The problem is that too many in aviation are too focused on the money. They fail to do their jobs and don't pursue maximum aviation safety.

— Jeffrey Lewis

This report was well-researched and interesting. I investigated accidents for over 32 years as an FAA inspector. Many times, no government investigator looked at the wreckage and took only the information provided by the person involved in the accident, and the NTSB determined the cause.

— Larry Williams

Comparing general aviation safety records with those of airlines is flawed and disingenuous. The rules governing the two are different.

— Brian Thomas

How about letting the people who are educated on aviation do their jobs? USA TODAY should focus instead on the fact that we're more likely to die on the drive to the airport than on a flight.

— Eric Wilkins


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