Measuring What Doesn’t Happen

April 8, 2010 by Bruce Landsberg

Nall09Those of us in the accident analysis business always seem to look at the glass as half empty or perhaps mostly empty depending on how pessimistic you are.  How to measure accidents that don’t occur? That can be done by looking at the overall activity and measuring the success rate. However, unless everything is monitored, as it is with the airlines, that is difficult for GA.

The media, consultants, pundits,  many in the training business or other self promoters thrive on featuring bad news – the worse, the better. I’ll be an equal-opportunity-insulter here and pick on virtually every media outlet, political parties of all stripes and their associated bloggers, lawyers, environmentalists, government regulators and including yours truly.

We all like to report bad news because it assures us an audience and in many cases, allows us the opportunity to create a need and be there with just the right product or idea to solve it. Ka-Ching! Sometimes it’s more like Ka-Chunnk when our solution isn’t really such a great one.

On the other hand, happy talk where it isn’t warranted should be identified as just that. Opinions are fungible – facts are not. One my favorite Mark Twain quotes; ” Get your facts first, then distort them as much as you like.”

As we look at GA safety data we need to remember that accidents (specific events) make up the data set. We can only estimate how many trips were completed without incident or how many hours were flown and the estimate may be rather crude in spots.

As we move into flying season 2010, I invite you to take a look at the Nall Report. It will provide you with factual information on where GA is having accidents: the who, what, when and how. Then you’re in a much better position to make your particular distortion of those facts. Then decide what this means to your type of flying.

Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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