As aerial agriculture pilots prepare for an early spring start to their busiest time of year, a new ATSB report highlights past aviation safety events in the industry.

ATSB's Manager Reporting and Analysis, Dr Stuart Godley said, 'ATSB has been working closely with the Aerial Agricultural Association of Australia (AAAA) to strengthen their long-standing education and training program by using reported incidents and ATSB investigations to identify key learning opportunities for pilots.

'The statistics clearly identify a long term trend in improving safety in the sector, but both ATSB and AAAA remain committed to improving the safety record even further.

'These statistics should serve as a reminder of the risks these pilots will face during the season that are not present in most other types of flying. Hazards include low-level flying with high workloads and numerous obstacles, in particular powerlines and uneven terrain.

'The good news is that, while these risks are always present, they are generally manageable', said Dr Godley.

The report focuses on aerial application accidents between May 2014 and April 2015 to coincide with the agriculture season in most parts of Australia.

Dr Godley said, 'Wirestrike was the most prevalent type of occurrence with more than half of the total accidents and serious incidents involving a wirestrike'.

Mr Phil Hurst, CEO of the AAAA said, 'We approached ATSB with the idea of producing an annual statement of safety trends in the industry to support aerial application pilots in their ongoing professional development through AAAA’s comprehensive ‘Professional Pilot Program’ and training courses.  

'This report is a very useful addition to the tools available to professional low level pilots and AAAA thanks ATSB for their practical response in improving access to the valuable safety data they hold.'

There were 13 accidents with one resulting in fatal injury in the preceding 12 months. In total, there were 24 reported accidents and incidents involving aerial agriculture and firefighting operations.

Read the report: Aerial application safety: 2014 to 2015 year in review

Media contact: contact ATSB on 1800 020 616 or Phil Hurst (AAAA) on 0427 622 430
Last update 10 July 2015