Aviation Accident Causes Among Sport Pilots as Compared to Class 3 Private Pilots from 2004–2017

In September 2004 a new pilot certificate, sport pilot, was established, which enabled pilots to fly with a valid driver’s license in lieu of a valid third-class medical certificate. In 2016 Mills and DeJohn published a paper in which they demonstrated that sport pilots had a higher accident rate than private pilots with Class 3 medical certificates. They concluded that this privilege should not be extended to a broader range of pilots due to the higher accident rate. They failed to investigate why these pilots crashed. This short communication aims to fill that gap. The NTSB database was reviewed for the entire period that sport pilot has been available, and reasons for the accidents were determined, both for sport pilots and private pilots with Class 3 medicals. Sport pilot accidents were caused by medical incapacitation 3.7% of the time. Private pilots with Class 3 medicals had accidents that cited medical incapacitation 2.5% of the time. Medical incapacitation represents either a probable cause or contributing factor in aviation accidents less than 5% of the time. There is a slightly higher rate of this incapacitation among pilots not receiving regular aeromedical evaluations, but the difference was not statistically significant.


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  • Accession Number: 01685946
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Oct 26 2018 10:58AM