Sports aviation accidents: fatality and aircraft specificity

A.J. de Voogt*, R.R.A. van Doorn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Sports aviation is a special category of general aviation characterized by diverse aircraft types and a predominantly recreational flight operation. A general comparison of aircraft accidents within sports aviation is missing, but should guide future research. Methods: A comparison of accidents in sports aviation was made using 2118 records from the National Transportation Safety Board for the period 1982-2007. In addition, the available denominator data from the Federal Aviation Administration were used to interpret the data. Results: The highest number of accidents was found with gliders (N = 991), but the highest relative number of fatal accidents came from ultra-light (45%) and gyroplane operations (40%), which are homebuilt more often than other aircraft types. The most common cause of accident in sports aviation was in-flight planning and decision-making (N = 200, 9.4%). The most frequent occurrences were hard landings and undershoots, of which the numbers differ significantly from one aircraft type to the other. Conclusions: Homebuilt aircraft are at particular risk in sports aviation. Although denominator data remain problematic for motorized sports aviation, these aircraft show a high proportion of homebuilt aircraft and, more importantly, a higher relative number of fatal accidents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1033-1036
Number of pages4
JournalAviation Space and Environmental Medicine
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010


  • balloon
  • blimp
  • glider
  • gyroplane
  • light-sport aircraft
  • ultra-light


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