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The Most Common Types of Accidents- General Aviation

Author / Coordinator:  
General Aviation
March 2007

General Aviation, is a class of airplane often referred to as "little planes," or "puddle jumpers.”

The historical pattern of GA accidents has changed little in the modern era. While the number of accidents continues to decline to record low levels, the most common types of accidents keep showing up in the same relative proportions.

37% of All Accidents: Descent & Landing
In order for an airplane to stop flying, it must return safely to the ground. Taking an airplane from being airborne and level at its cruise altitude to being tied back down at a parking spot involves four or five basic steps; descent, approach, landing, go-around (an aborted landing), and taxi. Taken as a group, these five stages of flight represent 37% of all accidents.

18% of All Accidents: Taxi & Takeoff

In order for an airplane to fly, it must leave the ground. Taking an airplane from being tied down at a parking spot, to being airborne and level at its cruise altitude involves four basic steps: preflight, taxi, takeoff, and climb out. Taken as a group, these four stages of flight represent 18% of all accidents.

17% of All Accidents: Mechanical Problems

Airplanes are made up of thousands of precision moving parts. The design, manufacturing, and maintenance standards used by GA are higher than in any other field of endeavor, with the sole exception of space flight. In spite of GA’s world-class standards, mechanical problems will crop up with every manmade machine, and the airplanes of GA are no exception. Mechanical problems account for 17% of all accidents.

7% of All Accidents: Flight Maneuvers

While flying, an airplane must maneuver through the air by speeding up, slowing down, making turns, climbing, or descending. Pilots often practice various maneuvers to enhance their skills. All pilots, and particularly student pilots, spend time mastering specific maneuvers, including techniques for recovering from unusual attitudes. Taken as a group, maneuvering flight represents 7% of all accidents.

4% of All Accidents: Fuel Mismanagement

All airplanes except for gliders or sailplanes use some type of fuel to power their engines. Airplanes can have very simple fuel systems with only one tank and no fuel pumps, or more complex fuel systems with multiple fuel tanks, pumps, and fuel selector switches. In addition, most aircraft require a specific type of fuel. Fuel mismanagement such as running a tank dry, selecting an empty tank, using the wrong type of fuel, or running out of fuel, represent 4% of all accidents.

3% of All Accidents: Weather

The atmosphere is the ocean upon which all airplanes fly. And the atmosphere is a very dynamic, rapidly changing, and sometime forceful place. There are times when pilots misjudge the weather they face. In the vast majority of these weather encounters, the pilot escapes by turning back, changing course, or landing early at another airport. Weather accounts for 3% of all accidents.