General Aviation and Public Safety: General aviation accounts for the vast majority of aviation crashes and casualties. Although crash rates have decreased somewhat, the crash fatality rate of general aviation has not changed in the past 20 years. Since the September 11, 2001, attacks, aviation safety efforts have centered on improving aviation security, including the security of small airports and airstrips used primarily by general aviation. Besides being a public safety concern, general aviation intersects with medicine directly in at least 2 ways. First, transporting patients from crash sites and between medical facilities is more hazardous than generally recognized, and EMS flight crew members have an occupational injury death rate that is 15 times the average for all occupations. Despite 1 EMS helicopter in 3 being likely to crash during a life span of 15 years, few EMS helicopters have crash-resistant fuel systems. Second, physician pilots crash at a higher rate per flight hour than other pilots. It is possible that physicians are more likely than other pilots to buy high-performance aircraft that require more time for mastery than their schedules may allow. In addition, physicians may take risks (eg, fly when fatigued or in bad weather) in order to meet the demands of a busy medical practice. From 1986 through 2005, a total of 816 physician and dentist pilots were involved in general aviation crashes; of them, 270 (33%) were fatally injured. Physician and dentist pilots accounted for 1.6% of all general aviation crashes and 3.0% of pilot fatalities (Carol Floyd, BS, National Transportation Safety Board, written communication, February 2, 2007). Conclusions: In summary, general aviation crashes are a little-recognized public safety problem even though they account for the great majority of aviation deaths. To improve the safety of general aviation, interventions are needed to improve fuel system integrity and restraint systems, enhance general crashworthiness of small aircraft, and reduce weather-related crashes through pilot training and avionics technology. The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board should place high priority on reducing general aviation crashes and allocate adequate resources for developing and implementing effective intervention programs.
Accidents; Aircraft; Accident-rates; Occupational-hazards; Occupational-accidents; Mortality-rates; Morbidity-rates; Pilots; Medical-personnel; Humans; Transport-mechanisms; Traumatic-injuries; Emergency-responders; Risk-factors; Risk-analysis; Aircrews;
Author Keywords: accidents; aviation; accident prevention; mortality; risk assessment; safety
Guohua Li, MD, DrPH, Department of Emergency Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 5801 Smith Ave, Suite 3220, Baltimore, MD 21209