Protecting against small plane crashes

Protecting against small plane crashes

A scene from a recent plane crash in Setauket. File photo

Following a spike in small plane crashes over the last few years, U.S. Sen. and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) called for an investigation, and he got answers.

On March 3, Schumer sent a letter to the National Transportation Safety Board asking for an in-depth analysis of recent U.S.-registered civil aircraft accidents on Long Island to help develop recommendations to prevent future incidents.

“I strongly urge you not just to conduct yet another investigation … but to also undertake a comprehensive and system-wide review to understand why these accidents are happening, and what can be done in order to decrease the occurrences,” he wrote in the letter. “The number of airplane crashes across the system must be reduced.”

This request came after a recent crash in Southampton, though others have also occurred in Shoreham, Port Jefferson, Setauket, Kings Park and Hauppauge in recent years.

The board, in a letter of response to Schumer, said it examined data from accidents in New York over the last five years, including the number of accidents, types of injuries, types of operations, causes of accidents and locations.

Since 2012, 156 aviation accidents have occurred, with 140 of these aircraft operating as flights under Part 91 of the Federal Aviation Regulations — small noncommercial aircraft. The causes have been similar in nature for the incidents with completed investigations. Most included safety-related issues, like loss of control, which occurred in one-third of aviation accidents. An in-flight loss of control accident involves an unintended departure from controlled flight, which could be caused by an engine stall, pilot distraction, loss of situational awareness or weather. According to the letter, the board said that preventing loss of control in flight in general aviation is currently on its 2018 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements.

Other causes of aviation accidents included loss of engine power, controlled flight into terrain and hard landings.

Moving forward, the board plans to reach out to the general aviation community and host a safety seminar later this year.

“We consider Long Island a suitable venue for this safety seminar because a number of general aviation accidents have occurred in that area and because we believe the robust general aviation community there will be receptive to our safety outreach,” the letter stated. “We anticipate that this seminar will help raise awareness about these recent accidents in New York and around the country and about specific issues affecting the general aviation community.”

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