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Liberty News

School of Aeronautics conducts national research on flight training fatalities

January 11, 2019 : Liberty University News Service

Liberty University School of Aeronautics partnered with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Air Safety Institute to release a comprehensive, 16-year study on the causes of fatal flight training accidents.

Researchers, including Liberty SOA Director of Safety Professor Andrew Walton and aviation student Carl Baumann, analyzed 240 fatal instructional accidents in piston engine airplanes from 2000-15 that resulted in 432 fatalities. They determined that the greatest risks in flight training were loss of control (54 percent), and midair collisions (10 percent). Overall, there is a downward trend in the number of fatalities, decreasing 35 percent in that time period.

“The collaborative effort between the Air Safety Institute and Liberty University not only provides an opportunity to share this information with a broader audience, but also gives the flight training industry an all-encompassing report in order to raise awareness and improve safety throughout the industry,” AOPA Air Safety Institute Executive Director Richard McSpadden said in a press release.

Walton said AOPA is the leader in disseminating valuable safety information to the general aviation community and hopes other flight schools and training organizations will use the data “to target how they can improve awareness and training in regard to the risks of loss of control and midair collisions.”

“We want our students and employees to be safe, to minimize the risk of an airplane accident,” he said. “But we also want to send out professional pilots, safety officers, aviation mechanics, and unmanned aerial systems operators who go into their career fields with these habit patterns — a mindset of professionalism and safety. With this report, we’re hoping to help the entire flight training industry continue to decrease the accident rate.”

Initial research by Liberty faculty led the university to invest in new ADS-B In/Out technology, which uses a satellite to broadcast the location of an aircraft and could possibly replace radar in the future. Liberty was one of the earliest adopters of the technology and equipped its entire 25-aircraft fleet in 2016. ADS-B Out (the service allowing aircraft to be tracked by other systems) will be federally required in order to fly in certain airspaces by 2020. Liberty made the decision to also adopt ADS-B In (where the user can see the air traffic in their own system) as an increased safety precaution for its students and flight instructors. The Federal Aviation Administration recently visited Liberty to highlight it as a frontrunner in the use of this new technology in its January/February issue of Safety Briefing magazine.

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