Can This Reduce the Number of GA Accidents?

By Robert Mark on July 23rd, 2014


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I was working on a couple of a stories related to the Malaysian Airlines tragedy over the weekend when an idea popped into my head. The Nall Report AOPA publishes each year tells us the GA accident rate isn’t improving much these days, but thankfully is not getting any worse either.

I wondered if there were other parts of the industry we GA folk might be able to model to create a system that might actually reduce the number of GA accidents. The airlines and their FOQA program came to mind. That stands for Flight Operational Quality Assurance.

FOQA is all about capturing operation data and digging deeply to understand the stories that information tells us.

Before you go data privacy on me though, give this episode of The Aviation Minute a listen and tell me what you think.

Rob Mark, Publisher

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8 Responses to “Can This Reduce the Number of GA Accidents?”

  1. @williamAirways Says:

    If you want to reduce GA accidents, you need to:

    1. Increase training standards and quality
    2. Have check rides annually

    It’s all coffee shop chatter until then.

    The flight data recording for GA airplanes already exist. Most don’t install it because of cost, and more importantly, nobody wants to be looked at, which is exactly what you need. Nobody ever blows by a cop at 90 MPH, but if the cop is not there…

  2. Robert Mark Says:

    So tell me which flight data recorders exist, other than ones I know about in the Garmins for instance Bill?

    But as for your point about no one wanting to be looked at, I can tell you that neither did airline pilots. But they changed their minds when they realized the data would help stem the accident rate.


  3. Luis Says:

    Hace a look at this mobile Flight Data Recorder:

  4. Robert Mark Says:

    Interesting point Luis, but what good will it do if no one wants to use them except to have a nice printout or video of their trip?

    As WilliamAirways said, he doesn’t think people want others knowing what they did or did not do in their airplanes. And what I’m saying is that is a large part of the reason the number of GA accidents has remained pretty much the same the past few years.

    How long do you think it will take before some political do-gooder jumps in and decides to petition the FAA to rid the skies of all those little airplanes that keep crashing in people’s back yards?

    And we’re all going to sit here feeling very self-righteous telling them that it’s about our privacy while they take this all away from us?

    I’m hoping I have this all wrong to be honest …

  5. Pascal Gosselin Says:

    My company makes a low cost General Aviation CVR/FDR with automated FOQA. Introduced in 2010, it’s called Wi-Flight and it automatically uploads all of its data over Wi-Fi between flights.

  6. @williamAirways Says:


    A quick Google search reveals them. As a sample, take a look at this:

    While this may not be FAA certified, the technology is there. Thus, if GA is really serious about having them on board, it’s not impossible to regulate to have this as required equipment. But you and I both have been around this block party a few times to know the sheep will be crying hell over it. Just take a look at the 406 MHz ELT requirement. That went over reeeeeeeal well.

    Everyone “talks” about wanting increased level of safety, but no one really want to “pay” for it, or be “regulated” on it, or be under constant “surveillance” over how poorly they really fly vs. how well they “think” they fly. And by flying I don’t just mean physical inputs.

    As you know, the airline pilots reluctantly agreed to the FDR/CVR installation at the beginning. It was only when they were assured that the data would not be used against them, that the pilots went along with the idea. Remember when the idea came around about video recording pilots on top of FDR/CVR? Yeah, that went over real well. Gee, I wonder what pilots have to hide behind those closed doors? Angry birds at FL410 perhaps? We both know video would add significantly to accident investigations. Evidently, there’s too much pilot union push back on that idea.

    So when we talk about safety, we’re really talking about what people are willing to do/accept, not what really should be done.

  7. Steve Thompson Says:

    Let’s get real. The FDR is generally used after an accident, right? Will your iPhone or iPad survive the crash? If you survive the crash, are you going to hand your iPhone or iPad to the FAA/NTSB? Probably not.

    What exactly can this app record?

    A real FDR, and I’m going simple here, needs to tie into the following:

    Engine monitor that has outputs the FDR. Fuel system (selectors, pumps, switches). All your flight instruments, transponder, radios, gps, dme, etc. Electrical system for charge levels, and whats turned on/off. Sensors for what the pilot has commanded (yoke, rudder peddles, flaps, gear, throttle, mixture, carb heat, prop, etc.) and sensors to show the results (did the ailerons, elevator, rudder, etc.) do as commanded. A/P feeds to the FDR.

    What do you think this will run by the time you get it installed?

    How about we take the Nall report and dig into it deeper?

    What number of flights crashed with a pilot? HOw about two pilots? What about flight lesson flights?

    What number crashed in IMC with on an IFR flight plan?

    How many flights crashed with a functional A/P on board? Was it being used or not?

    Experimentals: within the first 40 hours, between 40-200? etc.

    Night flight: VFR in VMC, what are the accident stats?

    Weather related — cross wind? vis 3 <6 miles?

    Towered field with tower not operating?

    Remember, GA flights do things that 121/135 just do not. And those guys have dispatchers, GA typically doesn't.

    How many crashes have been caused by pax having problems? GA doesn't have a door between the pilot and pax. Come to think of it, we don't have an FA to take care of them either.

    Number of crashes by low current time pilots vs. hi-current time pilots ( 20 hrs in the past 90 days, or 180 days)?

    Crashes need to be quantified and then attack those sticking points. And isn’t the FAA doing that with the safety meetings they “sponsor” (think Wings)?

  8. Robert Mark Says:

    Now that I’m back from AirVenture, I wanted to mention that there are a number of organizations, GAMA, primarily that are very interested in looking at methods of capturing this kind of everyday operational data.

    It’s helpful that a few of you pointed out the technology, but it’s all pretty useless if people can’t or won’t use it.

    @williamAirways is correct about airline pilots pushing back at this data capture. But remember too, we’re not simply trying to capture accident data … far from it in fact.

    It’s the regular everyday info that can be useful. A flying club or aircraft rental company will be the first to implement this kind of thing I think. It will allow them to look historically at members and customers for trends.

    If a club is letting someone run off with their $250,000 airplane and they learn through the data capturing, that Fred flies final 20 knots hot all the time, that gives someone an opportunity to have a chat with the guy before he flies off the end of the runway.

    If Fred continues flying the airplane like a crazy, the club might either get the guy some training or drop him from the club before there’s an accident.

    I agree though about people not wanting to share data right now. Some of the private e-mails I received after this piece made it sound akin to recommending someone touch somebody’s guns …

    I’ll leave it at that for now.

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