• GA still accounts for 90% of all aviation accidents, but the ATSB says fatalities have decreased over the past 10 years. (ATSB)
    GA still accounts for 90% of all aviation accidents, but the ATSB says fatalities have decreased over the past 10 years. (ATSB)

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) yesterday released a statistical report that shows fatalities in general aviation are in decline.

Covering the years 2010-2019, the report states that although GA accidents increased slightly, the fatality rate decreased over the study period.

"Between 2010 and 2019, over 90% of accidents and fatal accidents, and around 80% of serious incidents, involved aircraft operating within the general aviation and recreational aviation sectors," the report notes.

"In contrast, due to the more stringent reporting requirements for air transport operations, three‑quarters of reported incidents involved aircraft operating within commercial air transport.

"Considering all years in the period, the number of general aviation fatalities and fatal accidents decreased. The number of fatalities and fatal accidents within commercial air transport and recreation aviation remained relatively constant."

Over the 10 years, about one‑third of GA accidents and 44% of fatal accidents occurred during sport and leisure flying. Air work accounted for 37% of GA accidents and was identified as the primary contributor to fatalities.

Overall, the ATSB found there was a decrease in the number of fatal accidents of around one fatal accident or 1.4 fewer fatalities per year.

The 2019 statistics recently finalised revealed 17 fatalities in GA for the year, almost level with recreational aviation on 18 fatalities.

Some Analysis

Statistics taken from the ATSB's occurrence database for the 2010-2019 period show that accidents–fatal or otherwise–have been on a slight upward trend since 2010, with numbers increasing for all of the major operational sectors except  sport aviation.

Using accident figures for only the sectors shown below, the three-year moving average has increased from 154 accidents per year for 2010-2012 to 178 for 2016-18, an increase of 15.5%.

Training and air work accidents are also on the rise and private aviation also shows an upward trend over the ten years. However, private aviation has shown a marked improvement in the accident rates since a spike of 124 in 2014. For the period 2013-15, there were an average of 98 accidents in private aviation every year. The average for 2015-18 is 80 accidents, a decrease of 18%.

The star performer is the sport aviation sector, which started the study period with a 2010-12 average of 35 accidents per year. That is now down to only three accidents on average for 2016-18, a decrease of 91%. However, there were 11 accidents in sport aviation in 2019, the sector's worst showing since 2015, when 16 accidents were recorded.

Accidents in business aviation over the ten-year period continue to be so small as to be insignificant.

The Numbers

General Aviation Accident Analysis
Year Training Airwork Private Sport       
2010 22 43 68 31 142
2011 17 37 53 36 123
2012 27 21 70 38 144
2013 17 22 71 41 139
2014 42 26 124 22 190
2015 33 50 98 16 194
2016 23 68 86 4 169
2017 26 52 77 4 141
2018 38 80 76 1 179
2019 29 73 79 11 184
Average 29.8 64.6 83.2 7.2 173.4


 2010-19 Accident Chart

 The full statistical report is on the ATSB website.

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