iPad and Aviation Apps Helping to Decrease Private Plane Crash Fatalities

Crashes, and subsequent fatalities, of small private planes have "fallen to the lowest levels in decades" thanks to mobile devices that give pilots "much better weather information" than a few years ago, along with other benefits. These devices mainly include Apple's iPad lineup and, in 2015, helped contribute to the lowest rate of fatal crashes ever recorded by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration: 1.03 fatal accidents per 100,000 flight hours (via Bloomberg).

iPad-Pro-Trio
As pointed out by John Hansman, an astronautics and aeronautics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the data should be "approached with care," due to the fact that there is far less information and data available on general aviation as opposed to commercial flights. Private airplane flights per year have also decreased, which would help lessen the overall chance for accidents in the first place. Still, the new data collected "jibes with broad new efforts to improve safety in that arena," according to Hansman.
“It’s encouraging,” said Hansman, who has studied private-aircraft safety data. “There are reasons to think it might be accurate. There’s a lot of things happening in the system that are slowly making it better.”
In reaction to these accidents, the FAA and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board moved to bolster each private aircraft pilot's safety levels, leading to the official approval of "weather and other programs for mobile devices." To improve the regulation of these aircrafts, the two administrations also approved ways to make it easier to add safety equipment to planes, including devices that warn of engine failure and the impending loss of control of the plane.

Related Roundups: iPad Pro, iPad mini 4 (2015)


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29 months ago
I obtained my Private Pilot in 1992, my CFI in 1995, and started flying for the commuter airlines in 2000. In 2005 I shifted to Private fractional aviation, where I continue to work.

The iPad has been an amazing device for aviation since it was introduced. I purchased the original iPad on launch day, the following week I took it to training at FlightSafety for my recurrent training. I had multiple groups of both instructors and pilots surround me, evaluating it for general use (laptop replacement) and flight specific uses.

Now I am on my second company issued laptop. We removed almost all the charts (we keep a few foreign enroute charts for backup) and all other charts are on the iPad, saving huge weight and hassle keeping them current. We removed most of the aircraft onboard manuals, and now have more detailed manuals available than before. We are in the test phase of removing the aircraft logbook, all documentation of previous squacks will be electronic.

On the job injuries (due to the weight reduction of the paper manuals we needed to carry on our luggage) has actually decreased as well.

Onboard, when operationally necessary (due to expensive in flight wifi costs) we can even hook the iPad/iPhone onto the onboard wifi, increasing our situational awareness enroute.

A few months ago we started using an app that easily calculates our takeoff/landing performance, required for every takeoff (we always assume an engine failure every takeoff). It has a worldwide database and is more accurate than the old procedures that used paper tables. I can run a performance check in 60 seconds vs the 1/2 hour it took before, which makes it easy to redo in rapidly changing weather.

It has been amazing how fast the iPad has been accepted into the cockpit.
Rating: 10 Votes
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29 months ago

I don't think big planes would be using iPads... let's assume that...

Not true. The big carriers like United and AA have replaced the bulk flight manuals with iPads in the cockpit.

Source -- http://www.apple.com/ipad/business/profiles/united-airlines/
Rating: 5 Votes
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29 months ago
Very nice to see technology contributing to enhanced safety in aviation and of course other areas as well.
Rating: 4 Votes
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29 months ago

I don't think big planes would be using iPads... let's assume that...


All pilots are benefiting from iPads and other forms of "electronic flight bag" devices in the cockpit, regardless of aircraft size. As suggested by Richdmoore, for more complex airplanes the iPad is used for some calculations and as a source of information that used to be available in paper form only (charts and manuals).

For general aviation airplanes, there are a whole host of applications available that improve safety even though some are not really approved / prohibited for commercial operations in particular ... examples may include charts and maps with position indicated to make navigation and avoidance of terrain much easier, electronic display of nearby airplanes using ADS-B receiver, indication of airplane attitude (not intended for navigation purposes), etc.

There are surely other factors that have contributed to improved safety such as better weather forecasting and availability of these forecasts, advances in airplane instruments and engines, availability of parachute recovery systems, improvements in training, etc but I don't doubt that relatively low cost / high benefit of iPads and other tablets has made an positive impact.

My two cents :)
Rating: 3 Votes
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29 months ago

1.03 fatalities per 100K hours doesn't sound even remotely good to me...

On the road, there's a fatality every 93M miles driven. Assuming highway speeds, that means once every 1.5M hours of driving, someone dies.

1 fatality every 100K hours means you're 15x more likely to die in a private plane than in a car.

That's why I always jump out of the plane at 2.5 miles up. It's much safer than staying in the plane, no matter what navigational apps they've got. :D
Rating: 1 Votes
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29 months ago

1.03 fatalities per 100K hours doesn't sound even remotely good to me...

On the road, there's a fatality every 93M miles driven. Assuming highway speeds, that means once every 1.5M hours of driving, someone dies.

1 fatality every 100K hours means you're 15x more likely to die in a private plane than in a car.

I think you math may be off a bit. If the number is 1.03 per 100k hours, lets multiply the 100k hours by the average speed of a plane (I assumed 300mph) so that would be 1 death per 30M miles. Now that would still make driving safer by 3x compared to your stats. However, the reality is that most drivers drive alone or maybe with one other in the car, versus on a plane which usually carries many people. So fatalities per hour or mile is deceptive when comparing the two. Another way to look at this is how many hours or miles between accidents that results in fatalities. In that statistic it would be more favorable to the airplane.
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