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GA accident coverage in main stream media - does it vary per country?

10 Posts

From here:

Mooney_Driver wrote:

It is these two papers who reach 98% of the population, even if they read other papers for education… most don´t. Apart, also the main TV channels had both accidents in the main news.

I find this interesting. If those two accidents have been covered in the main stream media in Switzerland to the extent described by Urs (all newspapers, main TV channels, main news, front page, …), it is grossly different from how I perceive GA accident coverage in Germany. Here, GA accidents usually make it into the local newspapers, most likely their online publication. They MAY show up in larger newspaers as a side note, but I don’t think they commonly do. Never have I seen a simple GA accident covered in prime time news on any of the public or private channels (though I have to admit, I rarely read that stuff anymore these days). Rarely will people outside of aviation mention GA accidents to me, I usually find out about them via aviation channels (such as this one, certain Facebook pages I subscribe to, etc).

Now, I’m wondering – is that a function of a country’s size? This is not meant judgemental at all, but if you look at a country as an arbitrary geographical area with an arbitrary number of people, then it seems logical that in smaller “units” such as CH, news makers will have a harder time finding things that “happened”, so they are more likely to cover GA than in larger “units” such as Germany, where I guess GA accidents simply most of the time don’t make it onto the front page anywhere because other stuff gets prioritized?

Mooney_Driver wrote:

Trust in GA is exactly zero in the general population and unfortunately in my close relations too.

If my theory above makes any sense, I wonder, then, if there is a correlation between that mechanism and the trust you mention? Because again, I don’t see that happening around me. Many people actually don’t make much of a distinction between GA and airline flying in terms of their safety assessments (which is obviously as inaccurate as overestimating the risks of GA flying). Sure – I have some friends who won’t fly with me (or who won’t fly at all, for that matter) but for most people, even friends with kids now (did a local trip with a friend, her husband and her 8 year-old daughter the other day and all three of them notably loved it), it is no concern.

Essen-Mülheim (EDLE), Düsseldorf (EDDL), Paderborn (EDLP), Mönchengladbach (EDLN), Germany

As a fellow German I concur with Patricks impression. GA is hardly newsworthy in Germany. Crashes are mentioned in local news or maybe as “filler” in national news but there is no discussion about GA outside local events (airfield festivals etc.) or NIMBYs (noise abatement). The perception of how safe GA is seems to be rather arbitrary and highly different among different persons, although females seem to percieve it as riskier than males.

Novice pilot
EDVM Hildesheim, Germany

I have about the same feeling in France, apart from the famous French fear of “having the sky fall on your head”.
This fear is applied a lot to GA.

For example, everyone I talked GA with was instinctively hostile to having light aircraft overfly urban areas. This doesn’t apply to CAT though. I am not sure they all thought about the single engine /twin engine factor.

I guess “arbitrary” is the keyword here.

What surprises me is that the GA-friendly USA gets the same hysterical crash coverage as say the UK. I think one just has a spectrum of “media quality” everywhere… and they are always desperate to fill space.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

In Norway, fatal GA accidents are always “big” news. Non-fatal are not, unless some celebrity is involved. I think it’s more the degree of “spectacularity” that decides. Aircraft accidents are cool that way, because they give room for major speculations, and always some “serious” person saying “please don’t speculate, let the investigation find out”


Peter wrote:

What surprises me is that the GA-friendly USA gets the same hysterical crash coverage as say the UK. I think one just has a spectrum of “media quality” everywhere… and they are always desperate to fill space.

US news is so local that a GA crash always gets local coverage. They report on the most mundane things so a GA accident is relatively big news.

EGTK Oxford

GA aircraft crashes are routine, usually not juicy enough for broader coverage in Germany. Also there is very little local yellow press in Germany, most local news outlets belong to the quality press. On a very slow news day, there could be broader coverage because a newspaper (or even website) has a pre-determined size and columns get filled no matter how much newsworthy information there is. Especially during the summer holidays there is a phenomenon we call “summer hole” (Sommerloch) where largely irrelevant things make headlines.

Peter wrote:

What surprises me is that the GA-friendly USA gets the same hysterical crash coverage as say the UK. I think one just has a spectrum of “media quality” everywhere… and they are always desperate to fill space.

In the US, GA accidents get covered by local news (but not typically by national news, with some exceptions) and the coverage is typically uneducated by not in general averse to GA. They will often have some bystander say that the pilot did a ‘fantastic job’ of landing on a road and missing cars, for example. This fits in with the other local stories about missing children (stolen by their fathers) and parking issues at the local zoo

(Europeans watching recorded YouTube videos etc sometimes don’t understand the context of TV stations broadcasting two separate news shows in sequence: typically their own local news first, then the network news which doesn’t cover local stories)

Last Edited by Silvaire at 10 Aug 15:06

Most UK Newspapers look for some item to write an interesting story around – and if possible push it for several days. I only look at them on the shelves now, and rarely see anything worth buying. I used to buy and read two every day.
The chosen item might be a GA crash – I think our North of Scotland newspaper spun out a non-fatal Tiger Moth crash for two, maybe three, days.

EGPE, United Kingdom

In the case of these two accidents, a combination of factors came together to make them headline news in Switzerland.

The PA28 near Diavolezza was part of a national youth camp for aviation (JULA) which is an institution by the aeroclub held since 35 years for young people who want to know more about aviation. The average age is between 14 and 16 years. One part of the activities is a short 30 mins round trip by prop airplane from Samedan to introduce the kids to GA. I’ve been a small part of this event since 14 years, in so far that I go there for an evening to introduce some of the kids to aviation meteorology.

This accident was a shock to most people as it involved 3 kids aged 14 and 17. That is why the papers reported it very prominently and also the TV had it as headline news.

The quality of the reporting by the yellow press was usual sensationalist, quoting a lot of would be “experts”, eye withnesses and so on.

The 2nd accident made the papers primarily because it was another Piper which crashed barely a week after the other one. Once it became clear that it was not another VFR GA flight, the papers stopped reporting rather fast, with the exception of the local papers at the crash site as well as the local paper of where those killed lived. The PIC of the PA46 was a very well known and liked person both as an industrialist and aviator. He had a lot of experience, amongst which several intercontinental trips organized by P&F where he took part as crew of a PC12.

This all went past the papers, all they wrote is that the guy was 74 and an industrialist from Wohlen, one rag printed a pixeled picture.

In General, Switzerland (german part) is about the size of a minor German Bundesland and therefore all papers are more or less “local”. The press scene is dominated by two opposing publishers who both do “yellow” as well as “quality” press. There are some local other publishers, which don’t really matter in the general population. The two papers which dominate the Swiss market are both yellow press and in competition, meaning they will do anything to catch attention. One of them is politically right to mid right, the other one ballantly left wing when it comes to politics.

In recent years, a lot of critical political issues were massively influenced by the two yellow press rags. The left wing one is also backed up by a major “serious” paper, which however is also massively left wing. The other one has no “serious” paper in their portfolio but is often in agreement on certain issues with the mentioned NZZ.

In comparison with the British press, the two yellow rags would compare to the Sun and Daily Fail where as the NZZ corresponds to the Times and the Tagesanzeiger (which is run by the same publisher as the left wing yellow rag) would compare to the Guardian. Meaning, the NZZ is read by a 1% elite who maybe can tackle the crossword, the TA by maybe 2% and the rest reads if anything the headlines of the yellow press.

Not all aviation accidents get this kind of attention however. Here it was the factor of the kids and then “another Piper”(so arent’ they dangerous and need be banned???) a short time later.

TV and Radio simply react to what they perceive is news. They both had the JULA crash as headlines because there were two kids killed. They also carried the Malibu as it happened very close to a very popular attraction (Mainau) and was withnessed by hundreds of people.

When the yellow press does get headlines this way, they are influential on a large part of the population as for many, they are the only papers they consider reading and understand and because they show goory pictures.

I myself have had very adverse reactions to the two crashes both inside and outside my family. But as at least one guy here can withness, partners who get scared of flying will be a major obstacle to enjoying further aviation activity, if not even escalating the conflict into a either you stop or else situation. Luckily, this mostly ebbs down after a while but this kind of thing does indeed put a lot of us in difficult situations.

LSZH, Switzerland
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