Updated February 18, 2020

What Are the Common Causes of General Aviation Accidents?

General aviation is a broad category covering any non-commercial civilian air transportation. The types of flying that could fit this description vary greatly, and this diversity is exemplified in the United States, where the general aviation community is the largest in the world.

Unfortunately, accidents involving general aviation aircraft are often fatal.

What are the Ten common causes of General Aviation Accidents?

Based on data from general aviation accidents between 2001 and 2016, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has listed the following ten causes of fatal general aviation accidents as the most common.

Inflight Loss of Control

Mainly referencing engine stalls, a loss of control during flight can easily lead to a fatal general aviation accident.

Impact with Terrain

This category references controlled flights into terrain. For example, when the aircraft impacts the ground or a pilot attempts to land in the wrong place.

Powerplant Failure

A systems component failure involving the powerplant—the engine of the airplane—is essentially engine failure.

Fuel-Related Errors

If an aircraft runs out of fuel, the plane could stop working midair. Additionally, if the fuel is contaminated, the pilot may not be able to plan for an increased burn rate and, as a result, run out of fuel too soon.

Unknown Causes

Sometimes, the agencies that investigate aviation accidents don’t have the evidence or information required to determine the cause of the accident.

System Component Failure

In cases where a system component other than the powerplant fails, the accident would fall into this category. An example would include a misfunctioning altitude indicator.

Meteorological Conditions

Severe weather-related conditions could require pilots to fly via instruments rather than visual indicators. Most general aviation accidents related to meteorological conditions are fatal.

Midair Collisions

Collisions during flight often occur near airports or airfields.

Low-Altitude Operations

When attempting to land the plane or otherwise maneuvering the aircraft at a low altitude, accidents can happen. Examples include the wingtip hitting the ground or the aircraft skimming the top of a hill or tall structure.


The previous nine causes of general aviation accidents are most common, but other causes occur as well.

What are some General Aviation Accident Statistics?

The good news: General aviation accident rates are on the decline. The bad news: Fatalities still occur.

From 2010 to 2016, the FAA recorded the following fatal general aviation accident data:

  • 2010: 272 fatal accidents, 471 fatalities
  • 2011: 278 fatal accidents, 469 fatalities
  • 2012: 267 fatal accidents, 442 fatalities
  • 2013: 259 fatal accidents, 446 fatalities
  • 2014: 252 fatal accidents, 438 fatalities
  • 2015: 238 fatal accidents, 384 fatalities
  • 2016: 219 fatal accidents, 411 fatalities

Additionally, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the general aircraft industry contributes over $150 billion in economic activity, and of the estimated 600,000 pilots in the United States, more than 500,000 fly general aviation aircraft.

Contact an Aviation Accident Attorney Today

Our staff includes two licensed pilots with a wide range of ratings and experience. Our licensed attorney pilots hold a commercial license, flight engineer certificate, instrument and multi-engine aircraft ratings as well as flight experience in Boeing 727s and many private aircraft.

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of an aviation accident, you are urged to contact the Indianapolis Aviation Accident Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

Request a Free Consultation

Contact Us

Let WKW put our experience to work for you. Contact us for your free case evaluation.


Or, call us today at (317) 920-6400

Located In Indianapolis
Back to Top