Paul Bertorelli has written a lengthy post for AVwebinsider with a must see graphic illustrating general aviation fatal accidents in 2010. In the graphic, the numbers to the right of the circles represent the accident rate per 100,000 flight hours that each category represents with the circles representing the relative size of the risk.
Paul does note that the categories are his own and he intentionally painted them with a broad brush in order for the risks to stand in sharper relief. He also pointed out that you will be exposed to stalls, loss of control and running out of fuel while icing and convective events are more rare as many pilots don’t fly in conditions where they can happen.
However and from looking at the graphic, Paul drew the conclusion that general aviation pilots tend to have an inverted understanding of risk and what’s most likely going to kill them. For example: He commented that general aviation pilots will spend considerable amounts of money on traffic systems to mitigate a midair collision – one of the smallest risks a pilot faces.
On the other hand, stalls along with engine failure or fuel exhaustion are more common causes of accidents. Paul then commented that he would like to see a basic understanding of stalls de-linked from airspeed and instead more strongly associated with the angle of attack. He also added that if general aviation pilots had a real sense of what the risk of a stall actually is, they might be more inclined to spend money on an angle-of-attack indicator first or have recurrent stall awareness training before spending money on a midair indicator.
At the end of the article, Paul concluded that general aviation pilots need to worry less about midairs, thunderstorms and icing and worry more about simply controlling the aircraft. After all:
If you combine the stall accidents with what appear to be basic loss of control accidents—in IMC or not—you account for nearly half of all fatal accidents. That’s a big number and plenty to chew on to worry about things that might kill you and less about things that won’t.
In other words and before you go out and make a big purchase for your aircraft, take a look at Paul’s graphic and article – which has already attracted a large number of comments.