In wake of Halladay crash, five things to know about private planes

The remains of Roy Halladay's plane are moved from a boat ramp in New Port Richey. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times
The remains of Roy Halladay's plane are moved from a boat ramp in New Port Richey. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times
Published Nov. 10, 2017

The death of former Major League Baseball star Roy Halladay shocked the Tampa Bay area and the nation this week.

The 40-year-old husband, father of two and youth coach died on Tuesday when his private plane crashed in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pasco County. He was flying alone in the two-seat, single-propeller ICON A5 airplane when it went down about noon, authorities said. He was the first person to receive the 2018 model of the plane, according to the company's website, and had owned the 23-foot long aircraft for less than a month.

Every year, the National Transportation Safety Board uses information from the Federal Aviation Administration to track the number of accidents and fatalities involving commercial and private aircraft. The NTSB is currently investigating the Halladay accident.

Here are five things to know about private planes:

• In 2016, the NTSB reported that general aviation accidents were trending downward. General aviation includes smaller, private-use aircraft and excludes commercial planes.

The number peaked in 1999 with 1,905 accidents. It has steadily declined ever since, dropping 37 percent over the next 16 years. There were 1,209 in 2015, according to the most recent preliminary data available.

• The number of fatalities in plane crashes has also dropped in recent years. It was declining until 2006, when 706 people died. The jump was due to 154 people dying when a Boeing 737 collided with a business jet over Brazil.

Then it resumed its decline, falling to 376 deaths in 2015, a drop of 47 percent.

• Those declines coincide with a drop in the number of pilots certified to fly private planes. That has steadily decreased in recent years, a trend seen across most types of aviation certifications.

In 2002, the FAA reported that there were 245,230 active pilot certificates for private planes. That number has also steadily dropped over the next 14 years, falling 34 percent to 162,313 pilots in 2016.

The loss of pilots is also reflected in the drop in total general aviation flight hours, which has fallen 30 percent from 1999 to 2015. It went from 29.2 million flight hours in 1999 to 20.6 million hours in 2015.

Richard McSpadden, executive director of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association's Air Safety Institute, said he believes the number has been decreasing because the pilot population is aging. But they could go back up if the economy continues to improve, fuel prices go down and demand for pilots goes up. McSpadden said the association is expecting to see a rise in the coming year of flying activity.

• General aviation accidents make up the majority of all aviation fatalities. A preliminary report from the NTSB stated that of 415 fatalities in 2015, 376 were categorized as general aviation; 11 were foreign, or unregistered; 27 were air taxi related; and airlines reported no fatalities. In 2010, the NTSB stated general aviation accounted for 96 percent of all accidents, 97 percent of fatal aviation accidents and 96 percent of all fatalities for U.S. civil aviation.

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Additionally, a 2016 FAA report found that the category light-sport aircraft saw an increase in accidents and fatalities. In 2015, there were four fatalities, compared to nine in 2016. The number of non-fatal accidents also jumped to 90 in 2016 from 54 in 2013 and has continued to rise every year since. Since July 2004, there have been 54 total fatalities and 596 non-fatal accidents involving a light-sport aircraft.

• NTSB 2014 preliminary data shows that the majority of personal flying accidents occurred during landing, but there were more fatalities that occurred because of maneuvering. There were a total of 250 non-fatal landing accidents and five fatalities. There were 48 fatalities that were a result of maneuvering and 34 non-fatal accidents. The NTSB also found that the defining event for personal flying accidents was loss of control during flight, which accounted for 93 fatalities and 99 non-fatal accidents.

Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Melissa Gomez at Follow @melissagomez004.