Safety of general and recreational aviation

In Finnish general and recreational aviation, the year 2019 marked a slight deterioration in the safety performance compared to previous years. There were 12 accidents, of which two were fatal. Both accidents resulted in the loss of one life. These were the first fatal accidents since July 2017. The total number of accidents was higher than the longer-term average (9 in 2013-2018). Eight serious incidents were reported, which is one half of the previous year’s number and the longer-term average.

In Finnish general and recreational aviation, the year 2019 marked a slight deterioration in the safety performance compared to previous years. There were 12 accidents, of which two were fatal. Both accidents resulted in the loss of one life. These were the first fatal accidents since July 2017.

The total number of accidents exceeded the average for 2013-2018 (9). Loss of control, runway excursions and ground collisions were the most common causal factors of accidents last year.

There were eight serious incidents, which is one half less compared to the previous year’s figure and the average for 2013-2018.

The difference between the definition for an accident and a serious incident often is relatively minor. An event that on one occasion only results in a need for minor repairs (a serious incident) may, on another occasion, damage the aircraft so badly that it must be written off, or serious injuries are sustained (an accident). Accurate definitions for an accident and a serious incident can be found at the end of this page.
Last year, some operators in general and recreational aviation were lucky, while others were not. No personal injuries were sustained in some serious, high-energy incidents, whereas cases of runway excursions at low speeds damaged the aircraft beyond repair.
When the numbers of accidents and serious incidents are added up, we note that the total figure is equal to or slightly lower than in previous years. However, two persons lost their lives in last year’s accidents, and as a whole, we can say that the safety performance in 2019 was slightly poorer than in earlier years.

When we look at tier 2 indicators for 2019, attention is drawn to Airprox incidents and runway incursions.

Accidents

In 2019, a total of 12 accidents occurred in Finnish general and recreational aviation, of which eight in recreational aviation and four in general aviation.
The number of accidents in recreational aviation (which includes ultra-light aircraft and gliders) was doubled compared to 2018 and also exceeded the average for 2013-2018 (6.3). In general aviation (all domains excluding commercial air transport), this figure was slightly lower than in 2018 and higher than the longer-term average (2.8).
The total number of accidents exceeded the average for 2013-2018 (9).

The greatest share of accidents last year occurred in connection with approach or landing. They included runway excursions, loss of control cases and ground collisions. These event types have also often been background factors of accidents in recent years. To browse statistics on accidents and serious incidents starting from 2005 in Finnish, visit here (Ulkoinen linkki).

While fatalities have been rare in recent years, two fatal accidents occurred in 2019 with the loss of two lives in both cases. The average for 2013-2018 is 1.5 for this type of accidents.
One of the accidents occurred when an ultra-light aircraft collided with terrain after take-off in Pirkkala, while the other was caused by an unsuccessful emergency landing of an experimental aircraft after it had engine trouble.

The Safety Investigation Authority has launched an investigation  (Ulkoinen linkki)of the collision with terrain of the ultra-light aircraft at Pirkkala airport. The Safety Investigation Authority is also investigating  (Ulkoinen linkki)another accident where an ultra-light aircraft crashed into forest after take-off. On this occasion, the pilot survived. Both aircraft were operated by a student pilot. In the investigation of the accident in Pirkkala, the Safety Investigation Authority found that the location of the rudder pedals in the cockpit of the aircraft type involved in the accident (EV97 Eurostar) enables their inadvertent incorrect use. Before even completing the investigation, the Authority published a safety recommendation concerning a modification that would prevent these situations.

In drone operations, 11 reports of the devices having been destroyed were received, which is slightly fewer than in the year before.
In principle, these cases are also accidents. The EU-level principles for classifying incidents involving unmanned aircraft have not entered into force yet, however, and rather than accidents, they have thus typically been recorded as cases of loss of control at this stage.

The accidents and serious incidents are examined annually in proportion to information on hours flown collected from the owners of Finnish aircraft. The statistics on hours flown in 2019 will be completed later in the spring.  Initial estimates indicate that the hours flown in 2019 will be slightly less than in 2018. It is thus also likely that a poorer safety performance will be recorded for 2019 regarding accident numbers in proportion to hours flown.

According to statistics for 2018, the number of hours flown was 40,368 in general aviation and 20,987 in sport aviation.
In general aviation, 0.74 accidents, and in sport aviation, 1.91 accidents occurred per 10,000 hours flown. In general aviation, the average for 2006-2017 was 0.82 accidents per 10,000 hours flown. In sport aviation, this average was 2.46.

Accidents and fatalities in general and recreational aviation 2004-2019

Fatalities

In 2019, accidents claimed two lives. The last time a fatal accident occurred in Finnish general and sport aviation was in 2017, and last year’s safety performance was thus poorer than in previous years. However, this figure was lower than the average for 2013-2018 (3.5).

Fatal accidents, Finnish general and recreational aviation 2006-2019

Fatalities in general and recreational aviation, 4 year average

Serious incidents

In 2019, a total of eight serious incidents occurred in Finnish general and recreational aviation, of which one in recreational aviation and seven in general aviation.

The number of serious incidents in recreational aviation was significantly lower than this figure for 2018 (8) and the average for 2013-2018 (8.2). In general aviation, too, this figure was only around one half of the number in 2018 (13) and also below the average for 2013-2018 (9.5).
As we noted before, however, quite a few of last year’s accidents in general and sport aviation could, with better luck, have remained serious incidents.

The statistics on hours flown in 2019 will be completed later in the spring. .
Initial estimates indicate that the hours flown in 2019 will be slightly less than in 2018. In any case, it is likely that last year will be better than previous years also in terms of serious incidents in proportion to hours flown.

In 2018, 3.22 serious incidents occurred in general aviation and 3.81 in sport aviation per 10,000 hours flown.
In general aviation, the average for 2006-2017 was 2.18, and in recreational aviation 2.79, serious incidents per 10,000 hours flown.

Serious incidents in general and recreational aviation 2004-2019