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College of Aeronautics

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The special category light sport airplane (light sport) sector of general aviation has grown 10-fold in as many years with solo operations requiring only a sports pilot's certificate. With little research on light sport airplane safety, the study objective was to compare light sport and type-certificated airplane accident rates.

Accidents were identified from the National Transportation Safety Board database. Statistics employed Poisson distribution/proportion analyses/Mann–Whitney U-tests.

For the 2009–2015 period, the light sport airplane accident rate (fatal/non-fatal combined) was > 15-fold higher than comparable type-certificated aircraft, undiminished over time. The excessive light sport airplane accident rate was associated with inferior airman experience (time-in-type, certification). Mishaps were most frequent during landing (40%) and, of these, nearly half were due to a deficiency in the flare. There were a dis-proportionate number of trainees involved in landing accidents compared with mishaps for other phases of operations.

Towards improving safety, additional light sport training with emphasis on landings and a focus on the flare and directional control is warranted.

In the confines of the present study considering that landing mishaps, the most common accident cause, are often related to deficiencies in the flare and loss-of-directional control, instructors should ensure that airmen have mastered these aspects of landing and, for trainees, acquired the appropriate visual monocular cues.

Publication Title

Journal of Safety Research



National Safety Council; Elsevier