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Vintage aircraft safety

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  • Vintage aircraft safety

    I remember reading an article a few years ago in response to the FAA's concern about vintage aircraft. The author broke down the accident rate by manufacturer of GA aircraft for both vintage and modern types and the safest types were ... drumroll ... Stinson, Piper and Taylorcraft, and Cirrus was near the bottom of the barrel.

    My google-fu skills are lacking, because I cannot for the life of me find that article. Perhaps someone on the forum is familiar with it and knows where it lives or has a downloaded copy?

  • #2
    Going through my email history I believe it was an article by Steve Wilson.

    *** Update *** found it using the web archive ( Posted below for posterity's sake.
    Is Flying Becoming More or Less Safe?

    Published on December 23, 2010, in Uncategorized.

    Taylorcraft, Loch Haven Piper, Aeronca, and Stinson made small aircraft sixty years ago with steel tubes, wood, and cotton. Thirty years later, aluminum-made planes by Cessna, Vero Beach Piper, Beechcraft, and Mooney became standard. Now, Cirrus and Lancair manufacture in quiet factories (no blaring rivet guns). They use composites.

    Modern composite aircraft combine high-tech laminar flow airfoils, powerful dual turbo charged and intercooled engines, and computerized cockpits. Companies advertise them as faster, more capable, easier to fly and safer than ever. The pitch has been successful too. Cirrus delivered more than forty-five hundred aircraft since 1999 and have flown nearly three millions hours to date.

    It only makes sense that life is safer today than it was thirty years ago. Certainly, flying is safer than it was sixty years ago. Right?

    The following information is from the December 2010 FAA aircraft registration database and the NTSB downloadable dataset.

    Key in analysis is that NTSB accident reports record aircraft total time in service at the accident site. This offers reliable fleet hours information considering hundreds of aircraft across ten years time span.
    Manufacturer Number Registered Aircraft December 2010 Fatal Accidents Last Ten Years Average Aircraft Total Time of Actual Accident Aircraft Average Age of Actual Accident Aircraft, Years Old Average Hours Flown per Year Actual Accident Aircraft
    Cessna 99,916 1,071 4,828 32 151
    Piper 63,131 696 4,592 33 139
    Beechcraft 27,659 454 5,077 32 159
    Aeronca 9,911 11 2,223 65 34
    Mooney 7,960 86 3,344 30 111
    Cirrus 3,788 62 469 6 78
    Taylorcraft 3,609 8 2,997 60 50
    Stinson 3,172 4 2,639 64 41
    Luscombe 2,423 8 2,998 64 47
    Grumman 2,138 24 2,953 35 84
    Less informative, the following tabulation shows fatal accidents per number of aircraft, not factoring the hours flown.
    Manufacturer Number Aircraft Per Accident
    Aeronca 901
    Stinson 793
    Taylorcraft 451
    Luscombe 303
    Cessna 93
    Mooney 93
    Piper 91
    Grumman 89
    Beechcraft 61
    Cirrus 61
    Aircraft are subject to accident potential according to hours flown. Therefore, the following graph shows the number of hours flown per fatal accident by aircraft make. To understand the kinds and types of aircraft that make up this fleet, please see post, The Fifty Most Commonplace Airplanes.

    Surprisingly, aluminum aircraft proved half as safe as their vintage predecessors. The 64-year-old Stinson-made plane was safer than the Cirrus by a factor of 5.

    Fatal Accident Rate Compared to Fleet Average


    Times More Safe or Fatal than Average




















    Pictured below is the safest airplane since 2000, a Stinson Model 108-3. Predecessor of the 108 was the Stinson Reliant. Good name.

    A 4-place Stinson features a partial leading edge slot, similar in aerodynamic function to the outboard leading edge cuff design of natural laminar flow Cirrus and Corvalis wings.

    Seems Grandad had some things figured out a long time ago. He also won at checkers.
    Last edited by kona4breakfast; 2 weeks ago.


    • #3

      Key in analysis is that NTSB accident reports record aircraft total time in service at the accident site.

      I can't say "most Tcrafts", but I know a few that don't have recording tachs, so the NTSB would have to dig to find the TT on those types, a BC12-D crashed in North Georgia about 3 years ago and the sheriff was quoted in the newspaper " he looked in the wing tank and saw some fuel there", never thought to look in the nose tank, gary