From the Ground Up: A Study on General Aviation Flight Safety in British Columbia, Canada

Jonathan Davis, Thompson Rivers University

Abstract

Over a ten-year period, the flight safety trend in Canada shows a 19.00% decline in accidents (TSBC, 2017). However, there is a stark contrast between those incidents involving commercial airline operators, and those of privately operated, termed “general aviation”, aircraft (TSBC, 2017). In 2016, the number of flight accidents relating to GA privately operated aircraft was in excess of 120, roughly six times the incidence of all other flying categories (TSBC,2017). My research sought to uncover why the rate of GA accidents was much higher than that of other categories, with a particular focus on a hypothesized complacency in GA pilots due to soft regulations and training regimes. A secondary investigation objective predicted that aviation culture negatively contributes to flight safety. In phase-I of the research project, a survey was sent to 224 (26.79% response rate) members of a large general aviation association via email. Ten survey participants were selected at random to partake in phase-II of the study. Phase-II involved an interview session followed by evaluation in a flight simulator.

Despite the fact that emergency scenario training is a major component of present day pilot education regimes, and that survey responses revealed a high comfort and confidence for handling in-flight emergencies, 90.00% of flight simulator participants failed to recognize the inflight emergency from the aircraft’s instrument panel that was presented to them. While many did recover from that emergency, no participant applied the correct steps in the correct sequence, as they would have previously demonstrated during their initial flight training to a standard worthy for the earning of pilot license privileges (Transport Canada, 2017b). In a second simulated emergency scenario, only 20.00% of pilots could pre-designate their intentions for resolving the issue and then successfully perform to resolve it. These findings are supported by statistical feedback derived from the survey, as well as themes uncovered during the interview.

Because the training for pilot licensure would have covered the maneuvers tested during the experiment, that current rules and regulations dictate pilots to undergo some form of recurrent biannual training, and that the majority of GA pilots seem to falsely perceive their own ability as higher than actual, my research reveals that current educational and regulatory standards surrounding aviation training in Canada is insufficient for preserving aircraft operating proficiency in general aviation, non-professional pilots (Transport Canada, 2016a, 2017b).

Further, an aviation culture of ego and fear negatively contributes to flight safety by discouraging effective communication, and creating a blockade to information sharing.

 

From the Ground Up: A Study on General Aviation Flight Safety in British Columbia, Canada

Over a ten-year period, the flight safety trend in Canada shows a 19.00% decline in accidents (TSBC, 2017). However, there is a stark contrast between those incidents involving commercial airline operators, and those of privately operated, termed “general aviation”, aircraft (TSBC, 2017). In 2016, the number of flight accidents relating to GA privately operated aircraft was in excess of 120, roughly six times the incidence of all other flying categories (TSBC,2017). My research sought to uncover why the rate of GA accidents was much higher than that of other categories, with a particular focus on a hypothesized complacency in GA pilots due to soft regulations and training regimes. A secondary investigation objective predicted that aviation culture negatively contributes to flight safety. In phase-I of the research project, a survey was sent to 224 (26.79% response rate) members of a large general aviation association via email. Ten survey participants were selected at random to partake in phase-II of the study. Phase-II involved an interview session followed by evaluation in a flight simulator.

Despite the fact that emergency scenario training is a major component of present day pilot education regimes, and that survey responses revealed a high comfort and confidence for handling in-flight emergencies, 90.00% of flight simulator participants failed to recognize the inflight emergency from the aircraft’s instrument panel that was presented to them. While many did recover from that emergency, no participant applied the correct steps in the correct sequence, as they would have previously demonstrated during their initial flight training to a standard worthy for the earning of pilot license privileges (Transport Canada, 2017b). In a second simulated emergency scenario, only 20.00% of pilots could pre-designate their intentions for resolving the issue and then successfully perform to resolve it. These findings are supported by statistical feedback derived from the survey, as well as themes uncovered during the interview.

Because the training for pilot licensure would have covered the maneuvers tested during the experiment, that current rules and regulations dictate pilots to undergo some form of recurrent biannual training, and that the majority of GA pilots seem to falsely perceive their own ability as higher than actual, my research reveals that current educational and regulatory standards surrounding aviation training in Canada is insufficient for preserving aircraft operating proficiency in general aviation, non-professional pilots (Transport Canada, 2016a, 2017b).

Further, an aviation culture of ego and fear negatively contributes to flight safety by discouraging effective communication, and creating a blockade to information sharing.