Continuing the recent trend of safety improvement, business aviation accidents declined nearly 50 percent during the first three quarters of this year compared with the same period last year, according to statistics released by Boca Raton, Fla.-based industry safety analyst Robert E. Breiling Associates. While the decrease in flight hours–estimated by many to be between 20 and 30 percent–may have much to do with the dwindling number of accidents, it does not account for all the improvement in the accident rate, especially the decrease in the number of fatal accidents. In the first three quarters of the year, U.S. business jets and turboprops experienced 27 accidents, including four fatal, compared with 52 accidents– 17 of them fatal–in the first nine months of 2008.
The business jet category suffered no deaths and experienced only four accidents during the first three quarters of this year. In the same period last year, the sector suffered 19 accidents–five of them fatal, resulting in 20 deaths. The commercial/air-taxi segment saw a decline from four accidents– two of which resulted in 12 fatalities–in the first three quarters of last year to one nonfatal accident thus far in 2009, while the private/business category dropped from seven accidents, including two that caused three deaths, to a single nonfatal crash during the first nine months of this year. The fractional jet providers had no accidents so far this year; they experienced two in the first three quarters of last year.
The turboprop category saw a 66-percent decline in the number of fatal accidents over the first three quarters of the year compared with the same period last year. Overall, the total number of accidents declined by 30 percent, from 33 for the first nine months of 2008 to 23 so far this year. Thus far, the category has experienced four fatal crashes resulting in 23 deaths (a number heavily weighted by the March 22 crash of a corporate/executive Pilatus PC-12 flown by a professional pilot that claimed the lives of 14 people), compared with 12 fatal accidents and 26 casualties during the first three quarters of last year. The commercial/air-taxi segment saw a substantial improvement, more than halving the number of accidents in the 2008 period from 13, including three fatal, to six nonfatal crashes. Breiling reports the corporate/executive turboprop category actually experienced an increase in the number of accidents from three during the January to September 2008 period to five in the same period this year. The number of fatal accidents remained constant at two. In the private/business category, while the overall number of crashes declined from 16 in the first nine months of last year to 11 in 2009, they were also less costly in terms of human life, with the fatal accident total decreasing from seven to two–and fatalities from 12 to six–so far this year.