Flight hours drop, as does safety

 - January 28, 2009, 7:25 AM

Despite reports indicating that operators were flying less in 2008, the number of business aircraft accidents increased from the previous year, according to year-end statistics compiled by Boca Raton, Fla.-based aviation safety analyst Robert E. Breiling Associates. The totals, which are subject to change pending the issuance of final NTSB accident reports, show an increase in the number of business aircraft accidents from 55 in 2007 to 69 last year, while the number of fatal accidents rose correspondingly from 17 to 24.

The private/business category saw the biggest safety deterioration, rising from 15 accidents in 2007 to 29 last year, including 14 fatal, accounting for 24 deaths. Fatal accidents in the turboprop private/ business category alone more than doubled, from five in 2007 to 12 last year.

In the corporate/executive category, the number of jet accidents increased from seven in 2007 to nine last year. While there were no fatal jet crashes in this category in 2007, last year saw one that took five lives. The turboprop segment had an increase from two accidents in 2007 to four last year, while the number of fatalities rose from two in 2007 to 10, all of them resulting from the Aug. 22, 2008 crash of a Beech King Air A100 in Moab, Utah. The flight was bringing medical personnel back to their base of operation in Cedar City.

The situation improved in the commercial/air-taxi category, where the overall number of turboprop accidents remained steady at 14, with two fewer fatal accidents in 2008 than in the year before. While business jet accidents in the category declined from 16 in 2007 to eight last year, fatal crashes increased by one to four, and the number of fatalities rose from 10 in 2007 to 19 last year.

The fractional jet segment, while experiencing no fatalities, saw its safety record go from no accidents in 2007 to four last year.