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A study by the ATSB has shown that just under half of the general aviation fatal accidents in the ten year period between 1991 and 2000 were Uncontrolled Flight Into Terrain (UFIT) accidents, where an intact aircraft collided with a stationary obstacle or terrain after an in-flight loss of control had occurred.

In more than half of the UFIT fatal accidents an event that was either not averted, or not managed appropriately by the pilot, or was not within the pilot's control, preceded the loss of control. However, in the vast majority of UFIT fatal accidents that occurred during low-level flying operations, there was no precipitating event and the loss of control situation could not be corrected before the impact, given the aircraft's height above the ground when the loss of control occurred.

Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) fatal accidents (where an aircraft collided with a stationary obstacle or terrain during powered, controlled flight, taking the pilot unawares) was the second most common accident type (30 per cent of fatal accidents).

The majority of CFIT fatal accidents occurred during low-level flying operations, when the visibility was adequate: most of these accidents were wirestrikes. Pilots involved in fatal CFIT accidents who were flying unnecessarily low accounted for a quarter of all CFITs. They also accounted for 42 percent of all CFITs during low-level flying operations. The large majority of CFIT fatal accidents that happened when the pilot did not plan to conduct low flying operations, occurred when the pilot was not able to see the outside environment. This happened under visual flight rules or instrument flight rules, and was due to either poor visibility or darkness.

Research also showed that general aviation occurrences between 1700 and 2059 were 1.6 times more likely to be fatal than during other times of the day. Furthermore, occurrences involving private/business operations were 1.9 times more likely to be fatal over the weekend than during the working week.

Depending on the scale of feedback about this report, the ATSB will consider releasing a supplementary section of this report that addresses issues and questions that have been raised.

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Last update 01 April 2011