Johannebsurg - Eleven people have been killed in aircraft accidents since the beginning of the year, the SA Civil Aviation Authority said on Thursday.

“All these accidents, which were reported between 1 January and 18 February, occurred in the general aviation, and not the scheduled commercial airlines sector,” the SACAA said in a statement.

In January, six people were killed in six accidents, and five were killed in three accidents this month.

There were 12 non-fatal, though serious, aircraft accidents and incidents in January and another 10 in February.

SACAA director Poppy Khoza extended condolences to the families of those killed and expressed concern at the volume of accidents so far this year.

“The numbers are significantly higher compared to, for instance, the same period in the last two years,” she said.

Aviators were reminded of the importance of safety measures and ensuring these were met.

“Every aviator, in his or her respective role, is in one way or another responsible for flight safety.”

Khoza said around 20 fatal aircraft accidents occurred on average per year, resulting in an average of 40 deaths per year. There had been a seven percent average annual decrease in the number of aircraft accidents between 2006 and 2013.

“While the number of accidents has been declining over the years, we as the SACAA and the aviation community cannot take solace in statistics, as one life lost is just one too many.”

The general aviation sector includes privately-owned small aircraft and recreational aircraft. South Africa's large scheduled commercial operations were, however, among the safest in the world, Khoza said.

The SACAA had developed a plan to help reduce accidents in the general aviation sector. It would be implemented within two years and be reviewed regularly.

Pilot error was the most common cause of aircraft accidents, and those with less than 500 hours flying experience were responsible for most of these. Because of this, the plan sought to ensure that pilots were trained properly.

“The SACAA will be intensifying its oversight role over pilot training schools, as the schools are ultimately directly responsible for pilot training and development,” Khoza said.

Sapa