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MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2002 Apr 26;51(16):347-9.

Factors associated with pilot fatalities in work-related aircraft crashes--Alaska, 1990-1999.

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  • MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2002 May 10;51(18):407.


Despite its large geographic area, Alaska has only 12,200 miles of public roads, and 90% of the state's communities are not connected to a highway system. Commuter and air-taxi flights are essential for transportation of passengers and delivery of goods, services, and mail to outlying communities (Figure 1). Because of the substantial progress in decreasing fatalities in the fishing and logging industries, aviation crashes are the leading cause of occupational death in Alaska. During 1990-1999, aircraft crashes in Alaska caused 107 deaths among workers classified as civilian pilots. This is equivalent to 410 fatalities per 100,000 pilots each year, approximately five times the death rate for all U.S. pilots and approximately 100 times the death rate for all U.S. workers. As part of a collaborative aviation safety initiative that CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is implementing with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and the National Weather Service, CDC analyzed data from NTSB crash reports to determine factors associated with pilot fatalities in work-related aviation crashes in Alaska. This report summarizes the result of this analysis, which found that the following factors were associated with pilot fatalities: crashes involving a post-crash fire, flights in darkness or weather conditions requiring instrument use, crashes occurring away from an airport, and crashes in which the pilot was not using a shoulder restraint. Additional pilot training, improved fuel systems that are less likely to ignite in crashes, and company policies that discourage flying in poor weather conditions might help decrease pilot fatalities. More detailed analyses of crash data, collaborations with aircraft operators to improve safety, and evaluation of new technologies are needed.

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