With accidents decreasing by 8.7 percent and fatal accidents dropping by 11.6 percent, last year was the safest year for U.S. general aviation since the end of World War II.
According to preliminary aviation accident statistics released by the NTSB, general aviation accidents decreased from 1,741 in 2003 to 1,614 last year. Of these accidents, 312 resulted in fatalities, down from 352 the previous year. A total of 556 people died in general aviation accidents last year, down from 632 in 2003. The accident rate decreased from 6.77 per 100,000 flight hours in 2003 to 6.22 last year, and the fatal accident rate decreased from 1.37 to 1.20 per 100,000 flight hours.
At the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) annual meeting earlier this year, GAMA chairman James Schuster said, “It is critical that industry and government continue to work together to reduce the number of general aviation accidents even more.” He added that efforts to continue improving general aviation safety are proceeding industry- wide but are data-driven rather than knee-jerk reactions to the latest accidents.
2004 Civilian Flying Accidents
While the numbers of GA accidents and fatalities last year were the lowest in about 60 years, as recently as 1985 there were 2,739 crashes of general aviation airplanes. Of those accidents, 498 resulted in the deaths of 956 people.
Overall, the total number of U.S. civil aviation accidents decreased from 1,864 in 2003 to 1,715 last year. Total fatalities also decreased, from 695 to 635, the majority of which occurred in general aviation and air-taxi operations.
Air-taxi operators reported 68 accidents last year, down from 75 the previous year. The accident rate also decreased from 2.56 per 100,000 flight hours in 2003 to 2.21 last year. Fatalities, however, increased from 42 in 2003 to 65 last year, and the fatal accident rate increased from 0.61 to 0.78 per 100,000 flight hours.
Last year, there was one fatal accident involving Part 121 airline service. A Jetstream 32 twin turboprop operated by Corporate Airlines, doing business as American Connection, crashed on instrument approach to Kirksville Regional Airport in Kirksville, Mo., on October 19, resulting in 13 fatalities.
The FAA estimated that general aviation flew 25.9 million hours last year. That is more than all other forms of civilian aviation combined. Scheduled air carriers operating under Part 121 flew 17 million hours last year, while nonscheduled Part 121 operations totaled 575,000 flight hours.