A first-of-its-kind analysis of how many people are killed or seriously each year by aviation accidents in United was published in the journal Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine on Dec. 1.
The summary of findings from the press release announcing publication of the data is worth quoting at length because the details indicate that injuries and deaths stem from pilot errors, equipment failures and passenger or jumper actions:
More than 1,013 patients are admitted to U.S. hospitals with aviation-related injuries annually, and … 753 aviation-deaths occur each year. … The largest categories of patients were occupants of civilian, noncommercial powered aircraft (32 percent) and parachutists (29 percent). For aircraft occupants as well as parachutists, lower limb fractures were the most common injury, encompassing 27 percent of all hospitalized injuries. While burns were seen in only 2.5 percent of patients, they were responsible for 13 percent of deaths.
Aviation accidents have such a high fatality rate because planes, and skydivers, fall from great height at high rates of speed and hit the ground or water very hard. When recovery from an aviation injury is possible, treatment and rehabilitation can takes months or even years.
Every plane crash is investigated to discover whether the accident resulted from pilot errors, weather, mechanical failure or other problems. Because of this, the National Transportation Safety Board recently determined that a majority of privately owned and small chartered planes–the craft that conduct what the government calls general aviation, as opposed to commercial aviation–crash because they run out of fuel.
Each parachuting accident should also be analyzed by, at a minimum, the people who organized and took part in the jump. Doing this will reveal, for instance, whether the jump plane was too low over the target, whether a chute was mispacked or misused, or whether wind or ground conditions contributed to the accident. The Federal Aviation Association should also be notified when any skydiving accident occurs, and the agency may conduct its own analysis of what happened.
Determining the cause of any plane or skydiving accident is essential to preventing a similar accident in the future. Preventing accidents saves lives and eliminates pain and suffering.