In response to the three-part article written by Thomas Frank and published in USA Today on June 18, Aircraft Electronics Association President Paula Derks issued the following statement.
"USA Today's irresponsible and biased article largely ignores the tremendous efforts made by the various stakeholders in the general aviation industry to improve safety. The spirit of the article is misleading and does not give credence to the ongoing safety-enhancing efforts being undertaken by the entire general aviation industry in conjunction with governmental agencies in the United States.
"The loss of life and injuries is not something the industry takes lightly. The men and women in the general aviation industry strive daily to pursue accident-free results in one of the most highly regulated environments imaginable. It's simplistic journalism to write such an extensive piece that focuses only on tragic instances without the balance of citing some of the cooperative efforts to combat general aviation accidents.
"It is apparent the author was intent on slanting his story and distorting facts and figures to produce a highly sensational article. For example, how could the author not have included information about our nation's most aggressive paths to increase safety and efficiency in our skies through NextGen and the 2020 ADS-B Out mandate for all airplanes flying in controlled airspace to be equipped with the latest technology?
"According to a fact sheet on general aviation safety recently published by the Federal Aviation Administration, 'Reducing GA fatalities is a top priority of the FAA ... Similar to commercial aviation, the FAA is focused on reducing general aviation accidents by using a primarily non-regulatory, proactive and data-driven strategy to get results ... Over the past three years, fatal accidents from controlled flight into terrain have been reduced by more than 50 percent compared to the previous three years.'
"The USA Today article also did not make readers aware that safety was a primary concern when President Barack Obama placed his signature on the Small Aircraft Revitalization Act of 2013 just a few months ago. The bill was passed with bipartisan congressional support after months of a collaborative industry effort took place through the FAA Part 23 Reorganization Aviation Rulemaking Committee. The bill updates and streamlines burdensome regulations on the general aviation industry and thereby improves safety, decreases costs and encourages private-sector innovation. The bill requires the FAA to implement the Part 23 ARC's recommendations by December 2015.
"In addition, since the mid-1990s, the GA Joint Steering Committee, which is a government and industry group that uses the same approach as the Commercial Aviation Safety Team, has made a renewed effort to combat general aviation fatal accidents. In fact, the GAJSC has proposed 26 safety interventions to address loss of control. As a result, the FAA recently made it more cost-effective for pilots to install angle of attacks, thus improving aviation safety.
"These are just a few examples that USA Today readers will not learn after reading Frank's article. The article's notion that general aviation is unsafe paints an inaccurate picture. Aviation is held to higher standards than any other mode of transportation. While the fatal accident rate is just over one per 100,000 hours flown, manufacturers, pilots, trade organizations, the FAA, the National Transportation Safety Board and the entire general aviation industry will continue to work together to improve and evolve our safety systems."