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Preventable Aviation Accidents
Not every aviation accident is preventable. But according to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), more could be done to make air travel safer.
At issue is fuel-related accidents, the sixth most common type of aviation accidents. An average of 50+ fuel-related aviation accidents occur each year, according to the report. This includes running out of fuel -- fuel exhaustion – and also the inability to use the fuel onboard -- fuel starvation -- due to blockages, improperly set fuel selectors or water contamination.
Here’s what the report found:
- Less than 5% of fuel-related accidents were due to a failure or malfunction of the fuel system itself.
- Human error caused or contributed to 95% of fuel management accidents. This included lack of planning or experience in the type of aircraft flown and incorrect use of the equipment.
- This affects commercial flights as well as private flights. “Almost half of the pilots involved in fuel management accidents hold either a commercial or air transport pilot certificate (48%),” noted the report.
Accident investigations by the NTSB also revealed that pilots sometimes failed to complete the preflight checklist. This includes a visual check of the fuel levels in the tanks, in addition to depending upon the digital gauges, and repositioning the fuel selector to the “full on” position.
The report also reinforced that fuel-related accidents and other aviation disasters are highly preventable, given the proper safety precautions. In the report, guidelines provided to pilots include measuring or visually confirming the fuel quantity in the tanks during a preflight inspection, carrying a fuel reserve, and actively monitoring the fuel burn rate during flight.
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