NTSB Reports on 78 Agriculture Aircraft Accidents in 2013

The report cites fatigue, inadequate aircraft maintenance, lack of operations-specific risk management guidance, and lack of guidance for pilot knowledge and skills tests as safety issues for the industry.

The National Transportation Safety Board has issued another report about the safety of agricultural aircraft operations, and it contains new recommendations for the FAA and the National Agriculture Aviation Research & Education Foundation. The recommendations to both organizations ask that they work together to develop and distribute guidance on fatigue, fatigue management strategies, and scheduling practices in order to "help reduce the likelihood of fatigue, dehydration, hunger, and other physiological factors that can negatively affect a pilot’s concentration, decision-making, and performance."

The report says 802 agricultural aircraft accidents occurred from 2001 through 2010, including 81 fatal accidents. The industry’s 10-year average total accident rate is higher than the 10-year average total accident rate of U.S. general aviation, it states.

The report focuses on 2013 accidents – a year when NTSB investigated 78 aircraft accidents involving some aspect of agricultural operations; nine of them were fatal accidents that killed a total of 10 people. Sixteen of the accidents involved in-flight collisions with obstacles such as power lines, guy wires, trees, and meteorological evaluation towers.

The report cites fatigue, inadequate aircraft maintenance, lack of operations-specific risk management guidance, and lack of guidance for pilot knowledge and skills tests as safety issues these accidents have highlighted.

Many agricultural pilots who were involved in some of the 2013 accidents said they typically work more than 12 hours during the busy season (summer, for most operators), and one pilot reported flying 10-11 hours per day, according to the report.

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