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Characteristics and analysis of major U.S. air carrier accidents between 1991 and 2010

Boss, Kevin Korey
Scope and Method of Study: This study described the characteristics of major U.S. air carrier accidents between 1991 and 2010. A case control methodology was used to compare the characteristics of air carrier accidents citing pilot performance as a causal or contributing factor with air carrier accidents not citing pilot performance as a causal or contributing factor in order to determine whether any significant differences existed between groups. The researcher was particularly interested in determining whether a statistical difference existed between groups with regard to flight experience and level of certification.
Findings and Conclusions: The major findings of this study indicate that between 1991 and 2010, 96% of the first officers involved in a major U.S. air carrier accident possessed at least 2,000 hours of total flight time. Of the two first officers (4%) with less than 1,500 hours of total flight time, neither were involved in an accident which cited pilot performance as a causal or contributing factor. This finding did not support the notion that a 1,500 hour total flight time requirement will contribute to the safety of air carrier operations conducted under 14 CFR 121. However, the findings of this study also indicate there was a significant increase between 1991-2000 and 2001-2010 with regard to the distribution of accidents involving a first officer who's highest certificate was a commercial pilot certificate, irrespective of the citing/not citing of pilot performance. While an ATP certification requirement for first officers will certainly eliminate the possibility of any future accidents involving commercially certificated first officers, it was not possible to predict whether such a change will contribute to the enhancement of safety for 14 CFR 121 air carrier operations. It is possible there will simply be a redistribution of the number of accidents involving ATP certificated first officers.