GA Strategic Safety Actions in EPAS

3 February 2021

The strategic safety actions for aviation in Europe are outlined in the European Plan for Aviation Safety (EPAS). This page will provide all the information you need about the GA part of the EPAS and the most important actions that relate to the GA Community. 

If you are looking for the full version of the EPAS you can find it at this link on the EASA Website.  

Find out more about specific safety issues and their actions in the Safety Topics A-Z.

What's new for the latest 2021-2015 edition

If you already know something about the EPAS, you might be interested to understand a little about what is new for the latest edition. If you are new to EPAS, then this will help you understand how the document is constructed. This new EPAS edition features the following novelties and highlights:

  • Volume I ‘Strategy’: A new section ‘operational context’ is included to provide information on the European aviation system in terms of size, nature and complexity, describing the pre-COVID-19 situation, as well as the impact of the crisis.
  • Volume II ‘Actions’: This volume is shaped by the need to alleviate the regulatory burden on stakeholders in response to the unprecedented crisis affecting the entire aviation sector, while maintaining a high, uniform level of aviation safety. For this purpose, action priorities and timelines were reviewed and adjusted in consultation with the Agency’s Advisory Bodies. 
  • A new Volume III ‘Safety Risk Portfolios’: This part provides the set of available domain risk portfolios established through the European Safety Risk Management process. It describes the key risk areas and underlying safety issues affecting the European aviation system, identifying those requiring further action. Following an analysis of specific risks and safety issues arising from the current crisis, a dedicated COVID-19 risk portfolio is also provided. This part directly links the EASA Annual Safety Review to the EPAS. 

The GA actions in the EPAS

You can find all the actions in Volume 2 of the EPAS - for GA, the actions are in Section 8. Thankfully we have summarised this part for you here to make things as easy as possible for everyone.

Scope of the GA part of EPAS

The GA Chapter covers GA non-commercial operations involving aeroplanes with MTOMs below 5,700 kg that are registered in an EASA Member State. it also covers all operations with balloons and sailplanes.

The link between EPAS and the GA Roadmap

GA remains a high priority for EASA and the European Commission. GA in Europe is maintaining a stable activity that involves 10 times more aircraft and airfields than commercial operations. Since its beginnings, GA has been the cradle for innovation and recruitment of young professionals (ATCOs, mechanics, pilots, etc.) as well as a means to connect people across Europe.

Recognising the importance of GA and its contribution to a safe European aviation system, EASA in partnership with the EC and other stakeholders has created the GA roadmap project in 2013, and has started in 2019 a new phase of the project called GA Roadmap 2.0. With that, EASA dedicate considerable effort and resources to make GA safer and cheaper.

Addressing the most important safety risks for GA

A strategic priority of the EPAS is to address the most important GA safety risks in a proportionate and effective manner. In the past few years, accidents involving recreational aeroplanes have led to an average of 86 fatalities per year in Europe (based on 2009-2018 figures, excluding fatal accidents involving microlight airplanes, gliders and balloons). This makes it one of the sectors of aviation with the highest yearly number of fatalities.

The situation in GA aeroplane operations

In 2019, there were 37 fatal accidents causing 70 fatalities in non-commercial operations with small aeroplanes. There were fewer fatal accidents in 2019 when compared to the 10-year average and also fewer non-fatal accidents. The number of fatalities is 19 % lower than the 10-year average and there were 16 % fewer serious injuries than during the preceding decade.

Based on the data supporting the data portfolio and SRP for non-commercially operated small aeroplanes (MTOMs below 5 700 kg), the following top three Key Risk Areas (accident outcomes) that the EPAS seeks to address are: 

  • Aircraft upset (Loss of control). 
  • Terrain collision (also know as Controlled Flight into Terrain or CFIT). 
  • Obstacle collision.

The safety issue system reliability is the highest in terms of both number of occurrences and risk. A part of those occurrences contain engine failures and engine performance problems that force the aircraft to land. In general, engine failure by itself is not an issue that should cause a fatal outcome as the glide ratio of general aviation aircraft is generally good and should enable pilots to find a suitable landing area, given their pre-flight preparation and sufficient altitude at the time of the failure. This issue has strong links to another safety issue called ‘handling of technical failures’. The latter issue focuses on the pilot´s actions after the engine failure. Many of the accidents under this issue are fatal accidents, therefore high risk score has been attributed.

The safety issues of perception and situational awareness, decision-making and planning, and flight planning and preparation all relate to the handling of technical failures safety issue, which highlights that it is the pilot’s actions that are either precursors or resulting actions in their attempt to recover the situation. These three HF/HP issues highlight the importance of planning each flight carefully and of anticipating various scenarios in the planning. Such scenario planning will enable the pilot to react correctly to the safety-critical situation and perhaps avoid a serious outcome — specifically loss of control situations. The Key Risk Areas showing the highest risk is aircraft upset. While runway excursions are common, there is a low risk of fatal or serious injuries associated with them.

Gliders and sailplanes

There were 31 fatalities in sailplane operations in 2019 and the number of fatalities increased when compared with the 10-year average. The number of serious injuries also increased in 2019 resulting in 47 serious injuries in 2019, which is the highest figure since 2009. For sailplanes, the top three Key Risk Areas are: 

  • Aircraft upset (Loss of control). 
  • Terrain collision (also know as Controlled Flight into Terrain or CFIT). 
  • Obstacle collision.

The area showing the highest risk is aircraft upset involving stalls, spins and other type of loss of control. Other areas of concern are terrain collisions where the aircraft is colliding with hills, mountains or other terrain, and obstacle collision in flight where the aircraft is hitting obstacles during take-off, approach and landing. The excursion risk area does not provide a high risk score, even though it is high in numbers and results in substantial costs due to damage both during landings on the airfield and off-field landings. The airborne collision risk ranks lower, it predominantly exists around airfields and when several sailplanes are searching for lift in the same area. The associated priority 1 safety issues for glider and sailplanes are:

  • Perception and situational awareness.
  • Incomplete winch launches.
  • System reliability.
  • Decision-making and planning.
  • Airborne separation.
  • Approach path management.

Balloons

For balloons, in 2019 there were 1 fatal accident, 19 non-fatal accidents and 3 serious incidents. These figures are similar to those for the preceding decade. The top three Key Risk Areas in balloon operations are: 

  • Obstacle collision in flight.
  • Balloon upsets and control.
  • Balloon landings. 

Key Risk Areas bearing the highest risk are obstacle collision in flight and aircraft upset (loss of control). While aircraft upset applies differently to balloons than it does to other domains, it remains applicable and has been contextually included. The analysis of data from accidents and serious incidents confirms that collisions with power lines and hard landings are events with a higher likelihood to cause injuries, and potentially fatalities, in ballooning operations.

The highest risk safety issues under the obstacle collision in flight key risk area, based on the coding of the occurrences, are:

  • Power line collisions.
  • Perception and situational awareness.
  • High wind encounter.
  • Collision with buildings and trees.

Power line collision events often overlap with the balloon landings as these collisions tend to occur in the final stages of the balloon flight. In some cases, the balloon collides with the power line after the landing has taken place.

 

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