Regulation or Inspiration?
Flying|September 2020
More training could improve the accident rate. But must it be mandated?
Rob Mark

Recent data from the National Transportation Safety Board says, over the past decade, the trend in general aviation accidents has been headed in a positive direction—down. In 2012, the board recorded 1,471 GAaccidents, 273 of which were fatal. Those accidents claimed the lives of 440 people. The latest NTSB data available from 2017 lists 1,233 accidents, with 203 fatal accidents that cost 331 lives. So, what can the industry do to continue driving down that trend?

Back in the mid-1990s, the commercial aviation industry was also wrestling with uncomfortable accident numbers that cost the lives of hundreds aboard Part 121 carriers. The industry decided it had reached a breaking point, creating the Commercial Aviation Safety Team in 1997 around an ambitious plan to take a bite out of the risks of flying. Specifically, CAST—made up of people from a variety of government and industry organizations—set a goal of reducing the risk in commercial aviation by 80 percent by 2007.

Skybrary reports: “To achieve this ambitious goal, CAST developed and started implementing a comprehensive Safety Enhancement Plan. By 2007, CAST was able to report that, by implementing the most promising safety enhancements, the fatality rate of commercial air travel in the United States was reduced by 83 percent.” CAST continues developing, evaluating and adding safety enhancements to its plan for the continued reduction of fatality risk by using, according to the FAA, data-driven approaches to identify and address potential risk factors. The agency says, “This methodology includes voluntary commitments, consensus decision-making, data-driven risk management, and a focus on implementing the agreed-upon safety enhancements.”

In a highly regulated industry like aviation, CAST’s safety enhancements surprisingly didn’t translate into additional regulations but instead focused on the use of new technologies, as well as training and procedures for pilots, mechanics and air traffic controllers—systems with acronym identifiers that have become familiar to pilots. A few include the terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS), improvements to the traffic and collision- avoidance system (TCAS), training in crew resource management (CRM), scenario-based pilot training, and improved area-navigation approach procedures, including standard terminal arrival routes (STARs). In all, CAST produced 229 safety enhancements in its first decade of operation.

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