by Tom Sullivan, LOBO Board
I was tasked by the LOBO Board, at the request and foresight of Jeff Edison, to perform a deep dive into the many factors that have generated Lancair accidents, and to statistically analyze the results. A principal objective was to improve our members’ ability to obtain affordable insurance for their Lancairs.
The first phase of this study concentrated on determining the actual Lancair fleet size. All previously compiled statistics were generated by sorting the FAA aircraft registration database, using common sort criteria such as model number or “Lancair” in the registration description. Many builders used non-typical model numbers and no reference in the registration to “Lancair”. Registrations with model number “Smith 1” or “Johnson 2” were frequently found. We were able to increase our “known Lancair fleet size” by around 20% over past studies by individually researching and adding registrations that could be confirmed to be Lancairs, but that were not so-identified within the FAA registration system. Many times, the serial number was clear evidence because they were assigned by Lancair (by model) when providing the kits. There were also “searchable clues” in finding Lancairs by N number. For example, having the true model number within the N number. This was a very labor-intensive process (several hundred hours of research), but no plane was included in the study group until it could be positively identified as a Lancair. Even so, we found a larger Lancair fleet than expected!
Fleet size directly affects the accident rate used to compare our Lancairs to other EAB (Experimental Amateur Built) aircraft, so an accurate fleet size was a necessary prerequisite. The accident data compilation began with a comprehensive study completed over five years ago by Jeff Edwards. That spreadsheet was researched for any possible “missing accidents.” None were found during the period of Jeff’s study. However, Edwards’ spreadsheet included numerous “known” accidents/incidents that were not publicly documented. We therefore compiled a new “Accident History” spreadsheet using only officially-documented accidents and incidents from the FAA database. This is the data insurance companies use for assessing accident rates of other EAB aircraft and certified aircraft. We needed to be on the same playing field as all other GA aircraft being assessed for insurance risk.
The last task was to obtain a complete list of all pilots that had completed LOBO-approved training, either Initial Transition Training and/or Recurrent Training. That list went back to 2009 when LOBO’s FITS-compliant training syllabus was reviewed by the FAA as our standard. With that data, a cross comparison was made of the accident record of the overall Lancair pilot group (“all others”) vs. those completing LOBO-approved training.
After the data was compiled, it was sent to a third party expert to review and validate the results. The review found no significant errors, and a summary of this data was drafted for presentation to the insurance industry and LOBO Membership.
The study confirmed three significant things:
- There was a significantly lower accident rate within the LOBO-trained pilot pool, and an even more significantly lower accident rate when analyzing those pilots undertaking recurrent training.
- The accidents that were recorded within the LOBO-trained pilot pool were nearly all mechanical failures. None of the resulting accidents caused major injury to pilot or passengers. This finding contrasted significantly to the serious and sometimes fatal injuries found within the general Lancair pilot group that experienced the same types of mechanical failures.
- The overall Lancair group of pilots experienced more than 130 fatalities during the period of this study (2009 through 2021), with total fatalities exceeding 200 over the 33 year history of Lancair aircraft. There was not a single fatal accident within the LOBO-trained pilot group. This finding includes all pilots that completed any type of LOBO training, whether they undertook recurrent training or not.
It was evident the vetting of highly-qualified flight instructors with model-specific experience and ensuring their trainees “check every box” of the syllabus before a completion certificate was earned has had a very positive effect on the accident AND fatality record of Lancair pilots. We hope this data will help in providing affordable insurance (or in some cases, available insurance) to owners who are committed to serious training. We are actively taking this information to the insurance brokers and underwriters.