Forty-four per cent of all accidents and over half of fatal
accidents between 1999 and 2008 were attributed to private
operations. These figures far surpassed the proportions for any
other flying category, even though private operations contributed
to less than 15 per cent of the hours flown in that decade.

This report aims to identify the factors contributing to fatal
accidents in private operations and how these factors differed from
non-fatal accidents. This was achieved through exploring common
occurrence types (what happened), contributing factors (why the
accident happened), contributing pilot errors, and aircraft and
pilot characteristics.

Three occurrence types accounted for the majority of fatal
accidents: collision with terrain (90%); loss of control (44%); and
wirestrikes (12%). When all incidents and accidents are taken into
account, the likelihood of being killed was about 36 per cent for a
collision with terrain occurrence, 30 per cent for loss of control
occurrences, and about 50 per cent for a wirestrike. For non-fatal
accidents, there was greater variability in the common occurrence
types - forced landings, hard landings, problems with the landing
gear, and total power loss/ engine failure were also common.

Problems with pilots' assessing and planning were identified as
contributing factors in about half of fatal accidents in private
operations, and about a quarter involved problems with aircraft
handling. Other contributing factors associated with fatal
accidents to a smaller extent were visibility, turbulence, pilot
motivation and attitude, spatial disorientation, and monitoring and
checking. Non-fatal accidents were just as likely to involve
aircraft handling problems, but had fewer contributing factors than
fatal accidents.

Action errors and decision errors were both common to fatal
accidents. Violations, while less frequently found, were mostly
associated with fatal accidents.

In light of the contributing factors that were associated with
fatal accidents in private operations, the report provides advice
to pilots for improving the odds of a safe flight. Pilots are
encouraged to make decisions before the flight, continually assess
the flight conditions (particularly weather conditions), evaluate
the effectiveness of their plans, set personal minimums, assess
their fitness to fly, set passenger expectations by making safety
the primary goal, and to seek local knowledge of the route and
destination as part of their pre-flight planning. Also, becoming
familiar with the aircraft's systems, controls and limitations may
alleviate poor aircraft handling during non-normal flight
conditions. Finally, pilots need to be vigilant about following
rules and regulations that are in place - they are there to trap
errors made before and during flight. Violating these regulations
only removes these 'safety buffers'.

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ISBN 978-1-74251-063-7
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