AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 6

PRESIDENT'S POSITION

The fear factor

BY MARK BAKER
President and CEO

Public perceptions about safety are our business

AOPA President
MARK BAKER is a
commercial pilot
with single and
multiengine land
and seaplane
ratings, and a
rotorcraft rating.

6 | AOPA PILOT February 2021

PRE-CORONAVIRUS, global air travel was at an alltime high. Between 8,000 and 20,000 aircraft could
be flying at any given moment. In the United States
alone, some 2.7 million passengers passed in and
out of our nation's airports every day before the
pandemic. Most of us routinely boarded commercial flights, traveled for business, or piloted our
own aircraft without blinking an eye. But, for some
Americans aviophobia-the fear of flying-is a reality
(nobody reading this, of course). And that's before
the global pandemic added to our general fears.
Despite commercial aviation being the safest
mode of transportation, anxious fliers make up
nearly one in three people. But the chances of being
in a fatal airplane crash are extremely low-roughly
1 in 5 million, according to reports from such outlets as The Economist. Automobiles, lightning
strikes, bee stings, and-as we've learned lately-
even viruses can be much deadlier than air travel.
Even so, many people are plagued by anxiety when
it comes to flight, likely propelled by oversensationalized pop culture.
Because aviation accidents are so rare, they tend
to be spotlighted in the media, although not always
accurately. In the world of the 24-hour news cycle,
ratings-hungry reporters are eager to get the story
quickly. Unfortunately, aviation is complex, making it
a target for mischaracterization by those who just don't
understand everything that's in play. I've seen countless correspondents and aviation " experts " on national
news networks delivering exaggerated or misleading
information-from comical to downright bizarre. And,
sometimes troubling.
For example, a crash involving a student pilot was
accompanied by a photo of a downed commercial
airliner. Either training aircraft have evolved since I
learned to fly, or the media is baiting its audience with
a disregard for the facts. All too often, reporters are
shocked at the age of an aircraft involved in a mishap,
though the majority of our GA fleet is roughly 40 to 50
years old, and still equipped with required top-notch
safety equipment. Another common misconception is
that a " stalled " aircraft will just fall out of the sky like
a rock. Even nonevents, such as crosswind landings or
diversions because of mechanical or onboard medical
issues, make headlines with words like " emergency "
or " miraculous. "

Crashes involving high-profile celebrities usually
amplify public perceptions about safety. The helicopter
tragedy in January 2020 that killed nine, including basketball great Kobe Bryant, was the lead story for weeks.
With that coverage came speculation fueled by emotion, which left many with questions about GA. Such
incidents can provoke knee-jerk reactions from legislators and public figures, calling for more regulation on an
otherwise safety-conscious industry. In extreme cases,
crashes at local airports may incite city leaders to even
call for their closure.
Aviation is one of the most regulated industries in
the United States. Safety is embedded in our culture.
Since 1994 the fatal accident rate for GA has fallen
more than 50 percent. Technological advances, pilots
consuming more safety materials, and increased flying
hours all have contributed to these record safety levels.
Still, skeptics remain unconvinced, and probably
always will. Much of that has to do with the alarmism
cascading from our news networks and social media in
the aftermath of incidents. But there are things we can
do as an aviation community and within the industry to
address the stigma.
We can do better individually. As we've all seen,
sometimes the go/no-go decision is the difference
between life and death. We should strive to consume as
much safety material as possible and learn from tragedy.
AOPA's Air Safety Institute has numerous award-winning safety resources including podcasts, online courses,
quizzes, videos, and in-person seminars.
We can also study the numbers. The release of ASI's
latest Joseph T. Nall Report brings positive news to the
GA industry with data showing that 2017 saw a decrease
in total accidents from 2016. While 2018 saw a slight
increase in total accidents, it's important to note that
the overall and fatal accident rates continued downward trends. ASI has completed a major overhaul of the
report to provide near-real-time accident data analysis
as the data are updated on a rolling 30-day cycle.
Let's focus on what we can do to better improve
safety records for general aviation and tune out the
rest. When the next big air tragedy strikes, I won't
hold my breath waiting for the media to accurately
gather the facts-because, as we know, sensationalism sells. 
AOPA
EMAIL mark@aopa.org



AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021

Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - Intro
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - Cover1
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - Cover2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 4
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 5
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 6
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 7
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 8
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 9
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 10
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 11
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 12
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 14
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 15
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 16
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 17
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 18
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 19
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 20
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 21
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 28
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 29
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - Cover3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - Cover4
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