General aviation in the United States, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) includes over 220,000 aircraft that vary from balloons and amateur-built planes from kits to complex turbojets. It includes any domestic flight that is not on a commercial aircraft.
For most people, these are helicopters or small planes that seat the pilot and a passenger to a handful of people. General aviation also includes business jets, like the Cessna Citation shown in the image below.
People in the United States are dying and being seriously injured in general aviation crashes and making general aviation flight safer is one of the big goals of the FAA, which set a target in 2009 of 10% decrease in General Aviation Fatalities by 2018. The death rate for General Aviation in this country, based upon flight hours, has not changed much however.
The number of fatalities in general aviation plane crashes has gone down in the past few years not because these aircraft are less dangerous or because pilots are flying safer, but because the economy has cut back on the amount of flight time — it’s not cheap to fly these planes, after all.
FAA Top Ten List of Reasons for a US General Aviation Plane Crash
According to the FAA, these are the top 10 reasons that small planes and general aviation craft crash and cause the deaths of their pilots and passengers:
1. Loss of Control Inflight
2. Controlled Flight Into Terrain
3. System Component Failure – Powerplant
4. Low Altitude Operations
5. Unknown or Undetermined
7. Fuel Related
8. System Component Failure – Non-Powerplant
9. Midair Collisions
10. Windshear or Thunderstorm
Flying in Small Plane: More Dangerous Than Traveling by Car?
For those choosing to fly their Piper or Cessna instead of taking a commercial flight or driving their car to their destination, it’s important that they understand one confirmed research fact: flying a small plane is not any safer than driving a car on the interstate.
Private planes are dangerous
Flying in a small plane is not the same as flying a commercial aircraft. While the safety of U.S. commercial flight has increased in the past decade, this is not true for general aviation.
In fact, there are those that argue flying in general aviation small planes are a higher risk of death than if they were to travel by car. In a Live Science comparison of National Transportation Safety Board statistics regarding small plane fatalities and federal motor vehicle accident deaths, on a traveled-per-mile analysis, the plane is a bigger risk than the car.
Much more dangerous, in fact: their study shows that it is 19 TIMES more dangerous to travel in a small plane than it is to travel by car.
For details, read their investigation, “Why Private Planes Are Nearly as Deadly as Cars.”
Injury Claims for Plane Crashes Involving Small Planes and General Aviation
Just like car crashes, there are negligence claims to be pursued in many general aviation plane crashes. Pilot error or the mistakes of a mechanic, the failure of a engine part, or incomplete information from relied upon sources for vital facts like weather conditions can all be facts making up fault and liability in a general aviation plane crash injury claim or lawsuit.
If a company plane is involved, then the business may also share legal liability for the fatalities and serious injuries resulting from the crash. Wrongful death statutes may apply here, as well, providing statutory remedies for grieving loved ones.