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Aerial photography of a Beechcraft Duchess, a light twin engine trainer, flying over Lake Michigan. Chicago, IL USA

Sustained efforts by the flight training community highlights a near 50 percent reduction over the 20 years analyzed.

This report, a collaboration between the AOPA Air Safety Institute and the Liberty University School of Aeronautics, covers fatal training accidents in the United States from 2000 to 2019. During the 20-year period there were 287 fatal flight training accidents.

Flight training for our purposes includes both dual and solo operations that were categorized by the NTSB as “instructional.” We examined fatal accidents in the United States in fixed-wing, piston singles, and light twins with reciprocating engines under 500 horsepower per engine. The data excludes foreign accidents and accidents in airplanes that were amateur-built, light-sport, twin-engine with more than six seats, and single-engine with more than 500 horsepower.

The overall fatal flight training accident rate continues to improve. In the first five years of this century (2000 to 2004), the fatal accident rate averaged 0.49 per hundred thousand hours. From 2005 to 2009 that rate dropped to 0.41. Into the second decade (2010 to 2014), the rate averaged 0.39 and ended from 2015 to 2019 at 0.26.

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Sustained efforts by the flight training community highlight a near 50 percent reduction over the 20 years analyzed. While flight activity trended downward from 2000 to 2014, recent activity numbers show a complete recovery around 2018, ending with 5.7 million hours per year.

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The descriptions in this report will compare the fatal accidents from the first decade (the 2000s) to the second decade (the 2010s). The FAA estimates that just over 37 million instructional flight hours1 were flown during the 2000s and just under 38 million during the 2010s, making comparative analysis relatively straightforward.

Loss of Control in Flight (LOC-I) was the leading cause of fatal instructional accidents, followed by Midair Collisions (MAC) and Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT).

Top Ten Fatal Instructional Accidents 2000-2019

1 Using the rate criteria described above (certificated, fixed-wing, piston-engine singles and light twins, excluding experimentals, LSAs, and exhibition aircraft).