Wright included his research results in comments on the ARAC proposal, and offered six recommendations for FAA to consider – more research to validate risk management’s role in fatal GA accidents; updating FAA doctrine and handbooks to reflect risk-management principles; modifying the knowledge test and practical training standards (PTS) to ensure effective and consistent ways to test risk-management skills; the development of risk-management training curricula and courseware with minimum standards for training; having FAA create a flight review ground training module covering risk management; and modifying the current voluntary FAA Wings program to emphasize risk management and to create a second, “graduate”-level Wings program for more experienced pilots that would include comprehensive risk-management training and incentives to spur participation.
All of these steps could work together to reduce the GA accident rate which, as Wright notes, has been static for more than a decade. Moreover, the National Transportation Safety Board says that although the overall accident rate has held steady at around 6.8 per 100,000 flight hours, the components of that figure have changed dramatically during the past decade, adding that the fatal GA accident rate has risen 25% during that time period.
The Civil Air Patrol, the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, operates the largest fleet of GA aircraft anywhere – some 550, overwhelmingly Cessna 172s and Cessna 182s – and flies them under demanding conditions, and yet posts accident rates consistently lower than the rest of the GA community. Its most recent reported rate is 4.04 incidents per 100,000 flight hours, well below NTSB’s recorded GA rate, and the organization credits formalized risk management processes for much of that success.
Apart from more rigorous training and currency standards – an annual, rather than biannual, checkride, performed at a standard almost identical to those pilots must meet to get their certificate – “to go fly, we have a flight-release procedure to go through,” explains Brig. Gen. Joe Vasquez, CAP’s national vice commander. A CAP pilot “has to call someone and go through the risk assessment with the Flight Release Officer,” who serves as “another set of eyes looking at every CAP flight” assessing risks before it is released.
In addition, CAP aircraft are maintained to a Part 135 standard, “even though we’re only doing Part 91 flights,” says Vasquez, and “we go a little above the general industry on … training standards” for existing pilots, particularly for aircraft equipped with advanced systems such as the Garmin G1000 glass cockpit.