Aviation is not without risk. That’s probably obvious to you at this point. But having risk doesn’t mean aviation is unsafe. Far from it. And the best part of the equation is that the pilot has a disproportionate ability to control the risk.
Unlike driving a car, where our fellow citizens can easily ruin our day with one wrong move, the safety of flying is often directly related to the pilot. There are times when we experience mechanical problems, but these make up approximately 17 percent of total noncommercial fixed-wing accidents and only 10 percent of noncommercial fatal fixed-wing accidents. That leaves more than 80 percent of accidents that were either unknown or directly related to pilot error. And many of those can be avoided.
Obviously a large portion of our pilot training is directed toward learning how to avoid accidents. Practice emergency procedures, stall practice, go-arounds, and even takeoffs and landings are all drilled into us over and over again in the hopes that we will avoid problems with these phases of flight after we get a certificate. Clearly we’re not terribly successful.
These are statistics, and you are an individual. Just because most accidents are directly attributed to the pilot doesn’t mean you’ll have an accident or hurt yourself. Our accident rate is somewhere between 4 and 5 per 100,000 flight hours. Those are pretty good odds. But you’re trying not to become one of the four or five. There are just a few things that even low-time pilots can do to avoid their accident exposure.