Putting some hard statistics on general aviation accidents

General Aviation News has recently reported that a first-ever study published in the journal “Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine” has put some hard statistics on injuries in General Aviation accidents. Specifically, the study found that:

  • Aviation-related injuries in the USA resulted in 1,013 hospital admissions each year along with 753 deaths.
  • Approximately 32% of hospital patients were injured in civilian and noncommercial aircraft.
  • Lower limb fractures were the most common general aviation injury at 27%, followed by head injuries at 11%, open wounds and upper extremity fractures at 10% and internal injuries at 9%.
  • Approximately 38% of general aviation fatalities were caused by head injuries while burns, although seen in only 2.5% of all patients, caused 13% of deaths.
  • The fatality rate in civil aviation accidents stood at roughly 20% or about 200 times as high as in car crashes with over 80% of fatal injuries in aviation crashes occurring at the scene of the crash or before the victims reached the hospital.

Its worth noting that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the FAA have not systematically recorded injury and hospitalization data for civil aviation crash survivors. Hence, Susan Baker, Ph.D., both a licensed pilot and a professor at the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Center for Injury Research and Policy in Baltimore, Md. had to turn to the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Nationwide Inpatient Sample, which contains information about approximately 20% of annual hospital admissions in the USA.

Baker’s study ended up concluding that the sizable number of lower limb fractures would suggest modifications are needed to structures that will likely impact both feet and legs during a crash. Moreover, moving general aviation aircraft controls away from the front of the pilot and to the side, as in some Airbus and military aircraft, could also reduce both head and chest injuries. Hence, its hoped that Baker’s study will lead to better general aviation aircraft designs that will ultimately reduce both fatalities and injuries.

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