Turbine airplane accidents and fatalities climb

 - January 31, 2007, 11:47 AM

With the notable exception of professionally flown corporate jet operations, which had no accidents, business turboprops and jets posted more accidents and fatalities last year than in 2002 (71 versus 64 total accidents and 60 versus 51 fatalities), according to statistics compiled by Robert E. Breiling Associates of Boca Raton, Fla.

The results for last year are in sharp contrast to those of 2002, a period in which the accident record improved “overall” in 2001. “Overall” is the operative word here because a closer look reveals disparities when comparing like segments of business flying. For example, while corporate jets flown under Part 91 by professional (salaried career) pilots had no accidents or fatalities last year, 2002 saw one fatal accident in which five people were killed.

In 2002 there were no fatal accidents involving private jets flown by owner-pilots. But three people were killed in the one fatal accident last year (a Williams FJ44 re-engined Citation 501SP that crashed after an “uncontrolled descent” in IMC near Carey, Idaho). Also last year, one manufacturer lost a prototype and its chief test pilot during flight testing (Swearingen SJ30-2).

The other five fatal corporate jet accidents last year were:
• Falcon 20 (cargo) in Swanton, Ohio (three people killed).
• Learjet 35A in Groton, Conn. (two people killed).
• Learjet 25B in Del Rio, Texas (one person killed).
• Hawker 700A in Beaumont, Texas (three people killed).
• Learjet 24B in Helendale, Calif. (two people killed).

Accidents involving fractional jet operations were down last year–only one compared with three in 2002. To date, there have been no fatal accidents on record involving a fractional jet. Also down, albeit slightly, were the number of people killed last year in air-taxi jet operations–11 compared with 13 in 2002.

Two fatal accidents involving professionally flown private turboprops resulted in eight fatalities, compared with four nonfatal accidents in 2002. On a positive note, the 10 fatal accidents last year involving owner-flown turboprops was the same number as in 2002, but the number of people killed was down–from 29 to 17. Breiling noted that nine of the 21 accidents of owner-flown turboprops involved single-engine airplanes.