Homebuilt aircraft fatal accidents remain under historic average, but still work to do

EAA Aviation Center Press Release | November 24, 2022

Estimated reading time 3 minutes, 20 seconds.

Fatal amateur-built aircraft accidents remained under the historic average over the 12-month period ending in September 2022, but the Experimental Aircraft Association notes that an uptick over the previous year’s total shows that focused efforts to enhance safety even further remain essential.

For the federal fiscal year ending September 30, 2022, the Federal Aviation Administration reported there were 56 fatal accidents in experimental category aircraft over the preceding 12 months, including 39 in amateur-built aircraft. That compares to 42 total accidents – 33 in amateur-built aircraft – during the 12-month period between October 2020 and September 2021.

“The fatal accident totals, for both amateur-builts and experimental aircraft overall, remain 30 to 35 percent below where they were just a decade ago, including when looking at the three-year rolling average on which the FAA bases its annual not-to-exceed number,” said Sean Elliott, EAA’s vice president of advocacy and safety. “While that’s good news, we never want to see an annual increase in the totals. That’s a reminder that we all must continue to work to make safety the top priority even with the small numbers we see each year.”

The higher accident totals in experimental category aircraft mirror an increase for all of general aviation over the same 12-month period. This also coincides with preliminary figures that show an increase in flight hours in 2021 and into 2022.

“EAA has been deeply involved in FAA’s safety analysis teams for several years, and we consistently see that experimental aircraft accident causes are very similar to accident causes for all GA accidents,” Elliott said. “It shows that the accidents overwhelmingly do not occur because a pilot is flying an amateur-built or experimental aircraft, but because of factors relating to pilot decision making or flight procedures. Those are areas where EAA safety programs and resources can make a difference.”

EAA has worked closely with the FAA and NTSB on recommendations to reduce fatal accidents, through participation in the FAA General Aviation Joint Safety Committee. Efforts have also included thousands of copies of the EAA Flight Test Manual now in the hands of amateur-built aircraft owners and the increasing use of an additional safety pilot during initial flight testing in amateur-built aircraft. Other safety initiatives ranging from regular safety webinars have also put the spotlight on safety for experimental category aircraft.

Experimental aircraft accident totals also compare favorably to many other recreational pursuits that carry risk factors, ranging from boating to operation of all-terrain vehicles.

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