Correlates of pilot fatality in general aviation crashes

Guohua Li, Susan P. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: General aviation accounts for the majority of aviation crashes and casualties in the United States, and general aviation safety has not improved in the past decade. Objective: This study identifies factors associated with pilot fatality in general aviation crashes. Methods: We analyzed the National Transportation Safety Board's Factual Reports for all airplane and helicopter crashes of general aviation flights that occurred in North Carolina and Maryland during 1985 through 1994. Surviving pilots were compared with fatally injured pilots in relation to crash circumstances, and pilot and aircraft characteristics, at bivariate level and multivariate level. Results: A total of 667 crashes resulted in 276 deaths and 368 injuries during the 10-yr period in the two states. Of the pilots-in-command involved in these crashes, 146 (22%) died. The case fatality rate for pilots was significantly higher in crashes that occurred between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m. (34%), away from airports (36%), with aircraft fire (69%), or in instrument meteorological weather conditions (IMC) (71%). Multivariate logistic regression reveaLed that the significant correlates of pilot fatality were aircraft fire [odds ratio (OR) 13.7, 95% confidence interval (CI) 6.9-27.2], off-airport location (OR 9.9, 95% CI 5.0-19.6), IMC (OR 9.1, 95% CI 4.3- 19.6), nighttime (OR 2.2, 95% CI 1.3-3.7), and pilot age ≥ 50 yr (OR 1.7, 95% CI 1.0-3.0). Pilot gender, flight experience, principal profession, and type of aircraft (airplane vs. helicopter) were not significantly associated with the likelihood of survival. Conclusions: The most important correlates of pilot fatality are variables likely related to increased impact forces. Better occupant protection equipment, such as air bag and crashworthy fuel system, are needed for general aviation aircraft.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)305-309
Number of pages5
JournalAviation Space and Environmental Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1999


  • Aviation
  • Injury
  • Mortality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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