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7. Oktober 2010 Jan Brill

Luftrecht: FAA and Europe Safety Record

The European Regulators dismal safety-record on General Aviation, and why EASA doesn't do a thing about it

With EASAs frontal attack against US pilots and US aircraft flying in Europe causing a severe backlash from pretty much the entire General Aviation Community, more and more lawmakers and media-representatives, who look at the US-registered aircraft in Europe ask themselves one simple question: "What’s not to like?" In almost any objective category of safety, the FAA-regulated system does produce safer flights, fewer accidents and even more cost-effective solutions than it’s heavily regulated european counterpart. Incredibly, instead of learning from a clearly safer and more efficient system, EASA dwells in chauvinistic protectionism and - in many areas - clings to it’s long since repudiated approach of maximum barriers for advanced flight training and higher pilot qualification. This is not the standard case of an industry resenting change and fighting regulation just because "all was well in the past". This is the case of concerned citizens screaming at an indifferent regulator for change, longing for safer standards and more effective methods of training and demanding the regulatory application of lessons learned all over the aviation-world through blood, sweat and tears.

Reading the ASF-issued Nall-Report on General Aviation Safety can yield many insights and surprises, especially when comparing actual GA-safety in the FAA-system to flight safety under the European Regulator.
If we agree, that a system, that produces fewer dead bodies per hour flown or mile traveled is somehow superior to a system, that results in more casualties for the same services rendered, the following examination might be of interest.

General Aviation encompasses all flying activity other than military and airlines. Glider-Pilots and Business-Jets are General Aviation operators, just as individuals flying small four-seat single or twin engine aircraft.

Applying meaningful statistics to a field of such diversity is notoriously difficult. We want to avoid getting bogged down in discussions whether one type of accident is underreported or another type of operation is overly represented. Hence, we'll use a very simple and also very important indicator: Dead people. Assuming, that the reporting-rate of fatal accidents is almost 100% in the EU and in the US, this will make us least vulnerable to statistical fudging or blurring.

Fortunately, we have precise and excellent data on fatal accidents:

In the US, the total number of fatal accidents for 2008 was 282 (Source: Nall-Report 09, page 5). This includes all aircraft registered in the US or flying in the US below 5,7 tonnes which can be used as a practical delimiter to the airline world. With this number, the year 2008 was an average year. Not particularly good, but also not too bad.

In Germany, the total number of fatal accidents for 2008 was 42 (Source: Annual Report German Air Accident Investigation Board for 2008, Table 2, Page 10). This also includes all aircraft below 5,7 tonnes registered in Germany and thereby operated under unified european JAR licensing and maintenance rules. 42 also is a rather average year.

While one part of our contemplation is well known and simple to compare, the other part is not. What's going to be our denominator to asses the accident rate? Hours flown would be the ideal criteria. Hours flown would insulate us from different kinds of usage (e.g. transportation vs. recreational flying), but a reliable number for hours flown is not available. For Germany, there is no such ascertainment at all, and in the US the number is an estimation.

However, the factor for the absolute number of fatal accidents already is revealing: 42 fatal accidents under the German regulator vs. 282 fatal accidents under the US-system means a factor of 6,7.

It can safely be assumed, that the total number of General Aviation hours flown in the US is much, much higher than 6,7 times the number in Germany. So we know, that sitting in an american private- or business-aircraft is safer than sitting in a german one. We just don't know how much safer.

Without taking the reader onto a wild trip into statistical never-land, another simple inspection will give us an idea. The number of airplanes registered. This number is also precisely known: The number of US-registered airplanes for 2008 averaged at 379.000 (Source: FAA Airplane Registry Database Download). The number of aircraft registered in Germany in 2008 totaled 21.327 (Source: LBA). A factor of 17,7!

Looking at the number of licensed pilots yields a similar picture. Excluding the glider pilots (due to a national particularity, they make almost 50% of German airmen), Germany had issued 50.973 pilot-certificates of all levels in 2008 (Source: LBA). The US comes up with 613.746 active certificates in 2008 (Source: FAA Pilot Statistics Tables 1 and 8). Subtracting 29.214 American glider-pilots, we get 584.532 US pilots to compare them to 50.973 German aviators [Note 1]. A factor of 11,5!


The stringent deduction is alarming. Rounding all numbers in favor of the Europeans, 11 times as many pilots and 17 times as many airplanes in the US only produce 7 times as many fatal accidents compared to the German system under common european JAR-rules, which will be implemented and even tightened by EASA.

No amount of statistical rectification, adjustment or clearing up will be able to overcome this enormous gap.

Assuming for a moment, that german pilots are nowhere more suicidal or lightheaded than their american colleges, the inescapable conclusion is:

There is a lot of room for improvement in the European system!

The interesting question is: Where?

The author does not claim to know the exact reasons for the increased lethality of General Aviation under european rules. The hardware (airplanes, engines, navigation-instruments) used in both systems is almost identical.

Looking at the two systems from the point of view of decades of first hand flying- and training-experience in both worlds amongst our research-staff, some striking differences come to light. Holding pilot- and instructor-certificates in both systems, we feel competent to at least relate some observations.


###-MYBR-###I. Instrument Rated Pilots

The first and most obvious difference is the minuscule number of instrument rated pilots under european JAR-rules. An instrument rating is an add-on license, that a pilot obtains to fly safely in clouds and in bad weather under the guidance of Air Traffic Control. If the pilot does not hold this rating, he has to stay in visual conditions, outside clouds and in good visibility. If he inadvertently gets into a cloud he simply lacks experience and training to safely fly through or out again. The fact, that 99,9% of commercial passenger transport is done under instrument-rules by instrument-rated pilots, speaks to the utility of this add-on-qualification.

Flying "VFR into IMC" means a non-instrument-rated pilot get’s into adverse weather conditions. These accidents are frequent and the resulting collision with earth is almost always deadly. 14,1 percent (2008) of fatal accidents fall into that category, forming the single biggest primary cause of death in european General Aviation.

Of 31.219 private airplane pilots in Germany only 1.667 held this qualification. That’s 5,5%. The number is an embarrassment, plain and simple. You could easily summon all german "PPL/IR" pilots in a Bierzelt and probably even afford to buy them a drink.

Paying for the 57.422 US instrument-rated private pilots (27%) to have a good time would be a much larger investment. The number gets even starker, if you take into account the US commercial- and ATP-rated pilots holding only a private medical certificate, hence only exercising private pilot privileges (something very common in the US, but legally not possible in the EU).

113.212 airline- and commercial-pilots with instrument-ratings fall into that category, bringing the number of instrument-rated pilots engaged solely in General Aviation up to 172.634. That translates to 48,1% of all US airplane pilots holding a private-pilot-medical certificate!

It follows, the comparison between GA-pilots holding the vital instrument qualification in the US and pilots of the same skill- and experience-level in Germany is 48 percent against 5,5 percent!

The main reason is not cost. Though flying in Europe is clearly more expensive than in the US, the amount of practical training required and the content of that training is almost identical and expenditures for travel and lodging in America quickly offset any savings from lower flying-costs.
###-MYBR-###The main reason is access. Three major administrative barriers stand between an normal General Aviation pilot and his instrument rating:
  1. An overly inflated theory syllabus. A private pilot wishing to obtain an instrument rating to safer conduct his flights has to learn a multitude of subject-matters far beyond the capabilities of his airplane or the application of his license: Turbine-engines, electrical-systems of airliners and aeromedical-content stuffed into the european instrument rating not only are applicable mostly to commercial operations, they're also redundant, because if the pilot ever wishes to fly any larger and faster aircraft where this knowledge would be useful, he has to undergo additional training and examinations anyway.


  2. Classroom-Lessons: The overinflated theory has - by law - to be thought mostly in classroom lessons. Hundreds of it and they're available at a handful of schools only. This is hardly compatible with the daily life of a professional employee or businessman able to muster the funds required for the training. There has to be a way to study the required content in a time-flexible manner. The FAA allows this, and it’s common in many other professional fields here in Europe.

    While classroom lessons might well be effective for straight-through-training of airline pilots, it’s rigid schedule proofs prohibitive for anyone trying to get a job, a business, a family and maybe additional pilot-qualifications into just one life.


  3. Aircraft: Under the current system, training for the instrument rating in one’s own aircraft is next to impossible. That not only increases cost, it’s also counterproductive, because in most cases training in one’s own airplane with the familiar navigation-instruments and systems is not only faster, but yields a much safer pilot in the end.

    Any aircraft approved for instrument flying can also be used for instrument training. There are no modifications as in driving school vehicles or the like. The barrier is purely administrative, maybe also protectionist.
Very simple and cost-effective rule changes would go a long way towards addressing these three barriers. EASA is attempting this task in FCL.008, but the proposals discussed therein are meek and and fall even short of the three simple and most urgent steps stated above.


II. Air Traffic Control Infrastructure

Air Traffic Control in Europe is geared towards airline-operations. Small local airfields rarely provide instrument takeoff- and landing procedures which would allow General Aviation pilots to fly in and out in less than perfect weather. That’s in spite of the fact that since the approval and introduction of GPS-instrument-approaches 15 years ago, the cost of establishing an instrument takeoff or landing is mostly paperwork (no ground installations required).

That Europe neglects this paperwork whereas in the US an instrument-approach is available to almost any tiny airstrip, is a shameful shortcoming of our infrastructure.

In Germany, it is due to a multitude of administrative requirements, that airfield-operators can not afford to provide such a safe procedure. Some of these requirements make sense for commercial aviation, most are utterly over the top for personal and business-flights and nowhere required by international standards set through ICAO.

Moreover, properly licensed pilots flying visually en-route and wishing to change to an instrument-flight due to deteriorating weather-conditions are actually prosecuted and punished by the Civil Aviation Authority whereas this safety-decision is exactly what the FAA expects of any responsible airman.

The kookiness of that particular twist defies the imagination. It’s like outlawing brakes on the Autobahn, because you weren’t supposed to go that fast in the first place.


III. Inconsistencies

Also, flying on instruments in uncontrolled airspace not managed by Air Traffic Control is not allowed in many european countries, whereas others such as Great Britain specifically encourage it and have even created a license to allow just that.

The ramifications of this ban are directly related to the lack of instrument takeoff- and landing-procedures, because most smaller airports used by General Aviation pilots are located in uncontrolled airspace that is not managed by anyone.


###-MYBR-###IV. Flight Instructors and their abilities

In the FAA-system, a flight instructor is required to hold at least a commercial pilots license and an instrument rating, thus insuring the instructor is not one, but two steps ahead of his student. The european regulator only requires theoretical commercial-pilot knowledge and does not mandate an instrument rating at all from it’s primary disseminators of knowledge and experience.

We're not proposing to simply raise the requirement over night, because that would effectively cease pilot training in the EU, we’re proposing to reduce administrative barriers to the instrument-qualification so that future european flight instructors at least stand a fair chance to obtain the same qualifications and skills as their american counterparts.

Also, every US certified flight instructor, all 93.202 of them, can take their students all the way to the certificate or rating sought. The US flight instructor is licensed to teach theory and practical flying and also authorized to recommend his student for examination and the practical check-flight.

The european instructor can do none of this. He can only act as part of an approved and highly bureaucratic Training Organization, where the student has to be formally registered, approved and put into a curriculum – thus further limiting the accessibility of training and knowledge.

Finally, the US system requires the applicant for any certificate or rating to undergo a thorough oral examination of aeronautical knowledge, that – even in the case of a lowly private pilots license – can take 5 to 8 hours of questioning, testing and demonstrating theoretical knowledge and understanding. This is – by all accounts – a grueling, but a necessary experience.

The european regulator requires none of that and rather relies on a written multiple-choice examination only, thus allowing the aeronautical knowledge examination to be degraded into an exercise in rote-learning.



EASA addresses none of these issues in it’s regulatory opinion that will be before the Comission on October 14th. To the contrary, EASA, in what can only be described as a fit of administrative rage, proposes to effectively ban US licensed pilots and US registered aircraft from the continent.

The common european JAR-system of licenses, in place now for 10 years, has failed to even come close to the US-system in terms of safety delivered for General Aviation.

The main reasons for Europe’s dismal safety-record are not higher costs or ineptness of the actors, but mostly bureaucratic barriers to advanced pilot qualifications and continuative training.

EASA is now proposing to fight this very problem with yet more bureaucracy. We do not believe this to be successful.

There are other issues such as the legitimate fears of Flight Schools facing competition from their clearly predominant US counterparts or from suddenly freed free-roaming flight instructors making training available on a personal and flexible basis. These fears are justified and need to be addressed.

The more far sighted amongst the schools however, have long since realized that the medium and long term solution to the industries problems has to lie in the expansion of the pilot population and not in the ever more vicious battle over the last two or three instrument students standing.


In the interest of safety we therefor call on EASA to:
  1. Short-Term: Immediately lower the administrative barriers for private pilot instrument qualification by:

    • Reducing the theoretical syllabus to the required breadth for General Aviation pilots and putting advanced content into the requirements for advanced licenses where it belongs.

    • Permitting self-study of the theoretical subject matters, checked by a pre-exam that can be administered by any qualified flight instructor. Upon successful completion of the pre-exam the flight instructor can recommend the student for the actual written exam.

    • Permitting training – at least for the instrument rating – in any properly certified aircraft, irrespective of where it’s registered or owned.

  2. Medium-Term: Mandate and fund a unified Air Traffic Control infrastructure and regulatory environment, that allows for the cost effective creation of GPS based instrument takeoff- and landing-procedures (called IFR departures and approaches) to the most commonly used General Aviation airfields within the Community.


  3. Long-Term: Mandate new flight instructors to hold at least a commercial pilots license and an instrument rating, and allow them to give training within the limits of their own instructor-qualifications independently from training organizations or solely bureaucratic umbrella organizations.


  4. While these changes are implemented, accept as equal FAA private pilot licenses and FAA instrument ratings, to allow pilots to quickly and cost-effectively improve their qualifications and skills while Europe catches up.

Get involved!

If you feel your elected representative in the Transportation Subcommittee of the European Parliament, which will have a say about the new EASA-rules discussed on October 14th, should learn about these issues, feel free to contact them directly:

Brian Simpson,Chair, brian.simpson@europarl.europa.eu, +32 2 28 45510

Peter van Dalen, Vice-Chair, peter.vandalen@europarl.europa.eu, +32 2 28 45719

Silvia-Adriana Ţicau, Vice-Chair, silviaadriana.ticau@europarl.europa.eu, +32 2 28 45838

Dieter-Lebrecht Koch, Vice-Chair, dieter-lebrecht.koch@europarl.europa.eu, +32 2 28 45761

Download this article as PDF-Document or RTF-Text

Link to this article: http://www.pilotundflugzeug.de/artikel/2010-10-07/FAA_and_Europe_Safety_Record

Note 1: This approach contains two significant sources of uncertainty: First, due to different jurisdictions pilots in Germany often hold two licenses, one for recreational purposes the other for professional use. This would reduce the number of pilots, thus tilting the result in favor of the US system. The other is the fact, that the US-number contains roughly 80.000 student-pilots and the german number doesn't. We feel it’s legitimate though to leave the student-pilots in, because they can fly much longer and much more independently on their US student-pilot certificates than a german flight-student could. Both totals do not contain pilots of microlights.


10. Oktober 2010: Von Alexander Stöhr an Jan Brill
Ein großartiges Beispiel von Lobbyarbeit! Weiter so!
11. Oktober 2010: Von Michael Pflug an Jan Brill
Zu: "Permitting self-study of the theoretical subject matters, checked by a pre-exam that can be administered by any qualified flight instructor. Upon successful completion of the pre-exam the flight instructor can recommend the student for the actual written exam."

Im wesentlichen funktioniert es doch derzeit so.

Ich habe mein JAR IR(A) überwiegend per "Fernlehrgang" gemacht, also in meiner Freizeit über Büchern gesessen.
Leider verblieben noch 45h Mindest-Frontalunterricht (wenn ich mich recht erinnere), die sich zäh über diverse Wochenenden von einem dreiviertel Jahr zogen.

Dennoch: abschließend eine Zwischenprüfung auf der Basis welcher dann eine Anmeldung zur Theorieprüfung statt fand.

Sofern sich in den letzten Jahren daran nichts gravierendes geändert hat, ist man der "self-study" also ohnehin schon recht nahe.

Wäre ich allerdings auf die Alternative angewiesen gewesen, die sonst nötigen 180? 200? Stunden Frontalunterricht, würde ich heute noch ausschließlich VFR fliegen.
Denn das bringt man neben einem Berufs- und Familienleben DEFINITIV nicht mehr unter. Geht einfach nicht. Unmöglich.
11. Oktober 2010: Von Alexander Stöhr an Jan Brill
Konfrontieren Sie bestimte nationale Abgeordnete mit guten AL-Erfahrungen mit diesem Thema. Dabei sollte man sich auf die Ineffizienz der EASA und die Ermahnung durch die Komission stützen. Es muß allgemein bleiben.

Es gibt eine Parlamentsgruppe Luft und Raumfahrt. Vielleicht sind die ein erster Ansprechpartner. Desweiteren wird es sicherlich den einen oder anderen Abgoerdneten mit Flugschein (oder mti der festen Absicht, diesen zu machen) geben. Vielleicht ein Fall für Dr. Erb?

It's a people business...
11. Oktober 2010: Von Thore L. an Jan Brill
Letzten Samstag auf einer Bremen Radar Frequenz:

Nach ca. 5 Minuten absoluter Stille (IFR bei schönstem Wetter in FL100), frage ich mal kurz in die Runde:

N1420D, radio check, please
Controller: Ja, N1420D, sehr ruhig bei uns, heute, fliegen alle VFR unter Ihnen, da ist grade richtig was los.

Das soll also lt EASA die Lösung sein? Anstatt da IFR in FL100 in Ruhe und kontrolliert seine Bahn zu ziehen, soll ich demnächst auch VFR mit dutzenden anderen ohne Controller durch den recht vollen Luftraum pflügen. Wie kann man denken, dass das irgendwie sicherer sein soll???
11. Oktober 2010: Von  an Thore L.
hallo herr laufenberg,

ist warscheinlich eine art förderung des sozialverträglichen frühablebens...

ingo fuhrmeister
11. Oktober 2010: Von markus dold an Jan Brill
ich unterstütze die ausführungen von jan brill. 100%. auch ich habe eine faa private pilote ir machen müssen um safe zu fliegen und meine zeitlichen möglichkeiten aus familie und beruf nicht zu überstrapazieren.
11. Oktober 2010: Von Udo S. an Michael Pflug
"Ich habe mein JAR IR(A) überwiegend per 'Fernlehrgang' gemacht, also in meiner Freizeit ... "

ganz klare Punkte:
1. "Überwiegend" muss weg, bzw durch "komplett" ersetzt werden. Zur Prüfung gehn, bestehen, das muss reichen. Alles andere ist Schwachsinn, für privat fliegende Menschen, die offensichtlich Geld verdienen müssen für den Spass

2. Zu meiner Zeit über 8.000 Fragen, sprich min. 8.000 Min für einen Ober-Checker (die etwas langsameren von Begriff müssen die Prozedur noch 2-3mal in Summe wiederholen) verprasst also ca 133 h nonstop seines Lebens, allein um einen in großen Teilen sehr sinnfreien Fragenkatalog als Prüfungsvorbereitung durchzuklicken => sinnvolles Lernen wäre wesentlich nützlicher für die Fliegerei im allgemeinen, und den Betroffenen im Besonderen.

3.Präsenzstudium (wenn auch "nur" 45 h) mit Design-Protokollen ist schlimmer als Kindergarten - denn selbst dort können Eltern Anwesenheitsbefreiung erwirken. Anstelle davon wäre wiederum 1000mal effizienter, wenn der Fernschüler einfach nach eigenem Ermessen über ihm genehme Themen mit einem Spezialisten fachsimpeln könnte.

Also ich glaube Jan Brill hat schonmal was von "modular" und "integriert" gehört - es gibt aber auch meiner Meinung nach noch ein wenig Verbesserungsbedarf! Das aktuelle System zu loben ist schon etwas sehr gewagt: in meinem Kurs gab es 100% Zustimmung zu "es muss was geändert werden" (wobei die Ganztagsschüler auch gemeckert haben, aber na ja ... der Chor macht den Tenor)

Ich würde dem Ganzen noch hinzufügen:
zu den genannten Forderungen gehört unbedingt noch dazu: PRÜFUNGSTEILUNG => europäische Klage gegen unser liebes LBA, welches sogar wagte, mich am Telefon zusammenzusch...impfen, weil ich mich erdreistete sowas zu fordern, unter Berufung auf JAR-Möglichkeiten, wie sie vorgegeben und in fast allen Mitgliedsstaaten auch ermöglicht werden.

Also: bessere Regeln alleine reichen gar nicht, wenn wir uns ein "Elite-LBA" anzüchten, von welchem man dann mit Stolz behaupten kann, es hat die strengsten Kriterien in einem gleichen System (elitäre ausländische Airlines lassen sogar ATPL Kandidaten aus diesem Grunde gerne in Braunschweig testen - für Sponsorships, warum nicht?, aber PPL ist PPL - dafür hab ich kein Verständnis)

PS: sämtliche obige Punkte natürlich zum Thema Theorie. Praxisrelevanz im Fliegerischen: die Aufteilung hilft meiner Meinung nicht wirklich, ausser als finanzieller Köder, was also rein marketingtechnisch schon ok ist, aber gleichzeitig zur allgemeinen Unzufriedenheit im Nachhinein führen kann, wenn dem Kandidaten ein Licht aufgeht bezüglich Gesamtkosten - schliesslich sind Kosten der einzige Kritikpunkt bei der praktischen JAR Ausbildung (die teilweise natürlich durch unsinnige Vorschriften künstlich erhöht werden ...)
12. Oktober 2010: Von Walter Pohl an Udo S.
Elitäre Airlines ist lustig. Ich kenne nur solche, die entweder schon mal pleite waren oder es demnächst zum wiederholten Male sind. Und dann gibt es noch eine ganz besonders hochnäsige Airline in Deutschland, die sich selbst für irgendetwas so ähnliches wie elitär hält. Das beruht aber ganz und gar auf einer fehlerhaften Selbsteinschätzung.

Aber dieses Thema ist viel zu wichtig um abzuschweifen. Ich fand nur Ihre Formulierung inspirierend.

Beste Grüße
12. Oktober 2010: Von Udo S. an Walter Pohl
Ja, vielleicht hab ich es nicht ganz durchschaut oder noch nicht auf den Punkt getroffen. Ich will auch nicht auf einzelnen Airlines rumhacken (oder andere in mir keimende Verdachtsmomente veröffentlichen, derer ich noch 2-3 sehr konkrete in mir trage) - das Wichtige ist, es geht um's komplette System: EASA hat keine Chance besser zu werden als JAR, solang LBA (& Co) "Narrenfreiheiten" besitzen, und solche auch noch als Marketing-Gag benutzen, um ihre Geschäftsmodelle aufzupeppen.

Aber einen Schritt nach dem Anderen - richtige Spielregeln sind immer das Wichtigste für's nächste Spiel. Einhaltung muss man nachher erst begutachten und einfordern.


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