Weather Accident Types and Trends


Weather-related accidents have always been a big issue for general aviation. Their number has not been declining appreciably, as demonstrated by the graph at right, adapted from the most-recent AOPA Air Safety Institute’s 24th Joseph T. Nall Report, which discusses general aviation accidents in 2012.

During the eight-year period from 2005-2012, the number of fatal weather-related accidents ranged from 36 to 47, with an average of about 40 per year. Given that overall general aviation flying hours decreased during this period, the rate of fatal VFR-into-IMC accidents per flying hour has been increasing. As mentioned, relatively high performance aircraft tend to have more exposure to marginal weather than simple training and personal aircraft, and these more-capable airplanes are comprising a larger proportion of the active GA fleet than ever.

Another aspect of the problem is that a high proportion of weather-related accidents in general and continued VFR-into-IMC accidents in particular tend to be fatal, as highlighted in the bar chart at right, also from ASI’s 24th Nall Report.

All but one of 2012’s 23 VFR-into-IMC accidents were fatal. Those 22 events comprised 58 percent of all fatal weather-related accidents in 2012. Poor IFR technique and thunderstorms also had a high percentage of fatal accidents, while turbulence and icing accidents tended to be more survivable. Finally, it should come as no surprise that flight conditions play a role in weather-related accidents.


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