By Tom Hoffmann, FAA Safety Briefing Managing Editor
“Would you recommend this product to a friend?”
“How satisfied were you with your order?”
“Please state your level of agreement with the following …”
With so many survey requests bombarding us these days, I might be inclined to add them to the proverbial list of guarantees in life, alongside death and taxes. Despite their pervasiveness in nearly every aspect of our lives, today’s era of online and automated transactions has made surveys an increasingly essential way of life for most organizations. Although I may occasionally lament a survey popping up via my phone or email, I understand the value they offer to not only the requesting entity in terms of data collection, but to others who may rely on my candid feedback to make their own personal decisions. I also understand that by not providing information about a particular product, service, or viewpoint eliminates an important opportunity to have my voice heard and gives way to having an unwanted or negative experience more likely to recur.
Of course the aviation sector is no stranger to surveys. They are excellent tools for gathering data about what pilots think or want when it comes to new products, services, or policy changes. But there are surveys that do more than just inform. Some can significantly impact aviation infrastructure and program funding, affect staffing and service levels, and provide insightful data that could improve safety for all National Airspace System users. The survey that claims d) all of the above is the annual General Aviation and Part 135 Activity (GA) Survey. This important survey, now in its 43rd year, is the FAA’s singular source of information on the GA fleet, the number of hours flown, and the ways people use GA aircraft.
Perhaps you received the survey postcard in the mail and thought — eh, I don’t have time now, but I’ll get to it later (and then didn’t). Or, maybe since you didn’t really fly much (or at all) last year, you might think, why bother? Whether you flew a lot, a little, or not all, the FAA is still relying on you to respond so that all types of activity are represented. If time is a factor, know that the survey can be completed online in about ten minutes. Prefer paper? We got you covered; a hard copy version will be mailed to you with prepaid postage.
“We’re here to help,” says Peg Krecker, project manager with Tetra Tech, the firm contracted by the FAA to conduct the survey. Peg encourages anyone to call or email if they run into any problems or if they receive separate surveys for multiple aircraft. “We can work with these larger fleets by using a shorter survey form, or by conducting the survey over the phone,” says Peg. For anyone concerned about confidentiality, Peg assures that responses are only reported in highly aggregated form (e.g., by aircraft type or region) and can never be traced back to an identifiable individual.
But there’s still the matter of why this survey is so important. According to the FAA’s Office of Accident Investigation and Prevention, statistics derived from the final GA Survey help provide a basis for analytical work performed throughout the agency, which in turn provides several direct benefits to the GA community. For example, the FAA uses hours flown and active aircraft information by type of flying for safety analyses, forecasting, and planning. The data also helps the FAA and NTSB calculate accident rates, spot trends, and determine safety performance among different aircraft types and configurations. Another benefit is the ability to use lifetime airframe hours in aircraft fatigue studies to determine mean time failures and aircraft maintenance cycles.
So there’s a few good things to consider when you see that GA survey postcard arrive in the mail. For detail on the GA Survey, or to review results from previous years, go to bit.ly/GenAvSurvey.
Tom Hoffmann is the managing editor of FAA Safety Briefing. He is a commercial pilot and holds an A&P certificate.