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The Richard G. McSpadden Report

33rd AOPA Air Safety Institute Accident Report

The 33rd AOPA Air Safety Institute Accident Report (formerly the Joseph T. Nall Report) was renamed in honor and memory of our beloved friend and colleague who tragically lost his life in an airplane accident on October 1, 2023, at Lake Placid, New York. His work focused on reaching audiences with relevant, timely, and engaging content. Richard’s tireless efforts to improve aviation safety helped envision the current iteration of this report, which offers users a near real-time analysis of general aviation accidents. The data are updated on a rolling 30-day cycle, with access to analysis going back as far as 2008 and data trends projected well into 2023.

ASI’s executive summaries for a given period provide insight and comparisons of selected dates versus previous years. The executive summaries note a decrease in overall accident rates. An increase in total and fatal accidents was mitigated by a large increase in flight activity following 2020.

Accident rates in both non-commercial fixed-wing, commercial fixed-wing, and commercial helicopters fell, while non-commercial helicopter rates rose.

Stall/loss-of-control events continue to be the leading causal factor and weather-related accidents remain highly lethal. These accident causes—related to pilot decision-making and proficiency—help inform the industry, including the AOPA Air Safety Institute, where further education and training are needed to improve aviation safety.


What is general aviation?

General aviation (GA) is all flight activity of every kind except that done by the uniformed armed services and scheduled airlines. In addition to personal and recreational flying, it includes public-benefit missions such as law enforcement and fire suppression, flight instruction, freight hauling, passenger charters, crop-dusting, and other types of aerial work that range from news reporting to helicopter sling loads.

What’s in the report?

The Richard G. McSpadden Report analyzes GA accidents in U.S. National Airspace and on flights departing from or returning to the U.S. or its territories or possessions. The report covers airplanes with maximum rated gross takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds or less and helicopters of all sizes. Collectively, these types of aircraft account for 99 percent of GA flight activity. Other categories are excluded, including gliders, weight-shift control aircraft, powered parachutes, gyrocopters, UAS, and lighter-than-air crafts of all types.

How are accident trends measured?

The total amount of accidents nationwide can vary substantially from year to year. For that reason, the most informative measure is usually not the number of accidents but the accident rate, commonly expressed as the number of accidents per 100,000 flight hours. GA flight time is estimated using the FAA’s annual General Aviation and Part 135 Activity Survey, which breaks down aircraft activity by category and class and purpose of flight, among other characteristics.