Baker, Bolen Caution over Uptick in Accidents

 - January 20, 2022, 12:36 PM

The heads of NBAA and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) are warning of what they see as an appreciable uptick in general aviation accidents since late last year and are encouraging pilots to slow down and go back to the fundamentals of professionalism.

Speaking during an NBAA webinar Thursday on “Big Year, Big Issues for Operators—CEOs' Perspectives,” AOPA president and CEO Mark Baker called the recent uptick “a bit frustrating and concerning” particularly since “we came through last year with the safest general aviation record in all time, and we all know the activity was up significantly.”

While proud of the result, the accident and fatality trajectory this year is much greater, he said, adding that what makes this trend frustrating is that they are involving experienced crews that are still making mistakes.

“This is a time for people to pause and say, ‘What have we done here to make sure that we're launching safely and we're not taking risks…and following the procedures and checklists,’” he said. “It’s a very concerning year and we don't like to be on news at 11 as the lead story. And unfortunately, we've had a number of those here recently.”

These accidents are problematic throughout the industry, he said, not only from a safety standpoint but with the insurance industry and public perception.

NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen agreed. “Being safe and being perceived to be safe are essential for our industry to grow. And the accidents that we're looking at in the last part of last year are very troubling because of [their involving] trained pilots operating sophisticated equipment in places they're familiar with in situations where applying the professional discipline that we are accustomed to and that we promote doesn't seem to have been reflected.”

While investigations are still underway for these accidents, Bolen said, “We're not seeing that these are mechanical challenges. We're seeing these are errors in judgment errors in practices, and those are things that are within our control.“

As the industry continues to boom, Baker said aviators need to slow down. “As an aviator myself, I’ve made plenty of mistakes. I know that my chain of mistakes comes from not stopping and slowing down, not focusing on the mission at hand, and not trying to make somebody else happy.”