3:07 PM

Riding a tricycle can
be a safety risk too.

In my nightly RSS news scour of the Internets, I ran across this story which is today’s best example of how journalists that appear to know little about aviation try to piece together enough words to write a story about airplanes.

The headline read:

Private plane convenient but can be a safety risk

At face value, that head shouts to me that those darned little planes must really be dangerous. The story tells of a “wave” of fatal air crashes in the Midwest has claimed several lives in 2006, and concludes that even though the causes of most of the crashes have not officially been determined, pilot error “historically” is among the top causes.

The cutline that was under a generic photo of Teterboro, New Jersey’s ramp seems to indicate that when the pilot is not to blame, maybe the public ought to blame the AIRPORT:

Teterboro Airport in New Jersey is home base for a number of small planes. Earlier this year, New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle took off from Teterboro in a small plane that crashed into a New York City building, killing him and a passenger.
Why use a photo of an airport that happened to launch a high-profile fatal flight when there are thousands of other airports you could have shown that did not? One guess is that the pic has more shock value when you know it is a shot of TEB.

The story continues to say that between 1986 and 2005, the number of plane crashes dropped 35 percent and fatal crashes fell 32 percent, according to NTSB. But in the ‘graph that followed, a General Aviation Manufacturers Association statistic shows the number of piston-powered planes grew by more than 300 percent since the mid-1990s.

So let’s connect the dots. Sales are through the roof, while crashes are down by roughly a third. That doesn’t sound to me like flying by private plane "can be a safety risk", as the headline implies – it sounds like a very sound safety record that is proof positive that we pilots work hard at staying alive. But, of course, a headline that says GA airplanes are really efficient, really safe and a real gas to fly might not sell papers.

There is a solution to this kind of confusing mainstream media reporting. I wish that more reporters would visit the great resources found at AOPA.org.

It is truly our loss when they do not.

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