The Federal Aviation Administration unveiled a plan Monday for reducing the accident rate for private and corporate aircraft by 10 percent by the year 2018.
Federal Aviation Administrator Randy Babbitt told reporters he is concerned that the accident rate for general aviation _ which ranges from weekend flyers in single-engine propeller planes to sleek corporate jets, but excludes the airlines _ has improved only slightly in recent years.
There were 268 general aviation fatal accidents with 457 deaths in 2010, or 1.14 accidents per 100,000 hours flown, according to federal accident data. That's down from 325 fatal accidents and 562 deaths in 2001, when the rate was 1.28 fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours.
But private and corporate pilots have been spending less time in the air in recent years. The number of flights logged by general aviation pilots has dropped from over 29 million in 1999 to less than 22 million in 2008, in part due to the recession.
Babbitt said he is also concerned about a trend involving planes built from kits that are flown mostly for personal use. Amateur-built planes and other aircraft that are classified as experimental were involved in 22 percent of general aviation accidents over the past five years, even though they account for just 5 percent of total general aviation aircraft.
The focus of FAA's plan is an effort to make general aviation pilots aware of the problems that are most likely to lead to a fatal accident and how to handle them, FAA officials said. The agency plans to kick off the education campaign at an air show in Lakeland, Fla., on April 2.
The message FAA wants to convey to pilots is "you need to approach every flight as if your life depends on it," Babbitt said.
The plan also includes improving flight instructor training, especially refresher training.
Chris Dancy, a spokesman for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, said improving general aviation safety has become more difficult in recent years because most of the easy steps for reducing accidents have already been taken.