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Homemade Aircraft Pose Greater Safety Risk

The National Transportation Safety Board made recommendations this week based on its findings concerning aviation accidents. The recommendations are directed toward the group with the highest rate of aviation accidents and fatalities in the flying community-the pilots of small, homemade aircraft. These pilots suffer an accident rate that is twice the general aviation average, and suffer three times as many fatalities as other flyers. The data concerning homemade aircraft prompted the NTSB to make recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as the Experimental Aircraft Association. The goal is to improve safety while maintaining the benefits enjoyed by the flying enthusiast.

The most common cause of crashes for these small aircraft is engine failure. A large portion of the crashes occur during the maiden voyage of the homemade aircraft. In order to combat these problems, the NTSB has recommended enhanced fuel tests, more training, and improved flight-test plans. The changes would bring the United States more in line with other countries whose populations include large numbers of home built aircraft hobbyists. Canada and Britain both require more vigorous inspections before the aircraft can be flown and both suffer much lower accident rates than the U.S.

The vast majority of those enjoying this hobby are experienced pilots. Despite the generally high level of experience among these pilots, nearly one half of the fatal accidents were attributed to loss of control of the aircraft. Roughly 25 percent of the total accidents resulted from pilots losing control. It was not clear if pilot error or equipment failure played the larger role in these incidents.

Source: USA Today, "NTSB: Homemade aircraft deadlier than most planes," by Bart Jansen, 22 May 2012

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