Turbine business airplanes operating private and charter flights worldwide logged a substantial increase in accidents and fatalities last year compared with 2010, while fractional operations continued to be one of the safest segments. According to statistics compiled by AIN, total accidents involving U.S.-registered business jets nearly doubled, from 17 in 2010 to 32 last year, and U.S.-registered turboprop accidents jumped from 32 in 2010 to 43 last year. The increase in the number of accidents coincides with an increase in the number of business jet flight operations worldwide. According to the FAA, flight operations (arrivals and departures) increased about 4 percent between December 2010 and November 2011 over the same time period a year earlier.
In the one fatal jet accident last year, all four crewmembers were killed in a crash during a test flight of the new Gulfstream G650. Two people died in the single accident of a business jet in 2010, a charter Learjet 35A on a Part 91 positioning flight. There were no fatal Part 135 jet accidents over the last two years, and there were just three Part 135 incidents last year compared with nine in 2010. Three nonfatal mishaps befell U.S.-registered jets while operating outside the U.S. over the two-year period.
Turboprops Fared the Worst
The number of fatalities in turboprop accidents more than doubled: 29 people killed in 11 accidents last year versus 12 people killed in four accidents in 2010. In the fourth quarter of last year alone, 13 people died in four fatal accidents involving a private or corporate-owned turboprop (all under Part 91), while there where no fatal turboprop accidents in the final quarter of 2010. Last year, two people were killed in two fatal accidents of turboprops operating under Part 135 versus two people killed in one Part 135 turboprop crash in 2010. Last year, two of the fatal Part 91 turboprop accidents involved airplanes operating outside the U.S.
Part 91K fractional jets and turboprops experienced the lowest number of mishaps among all operating segments of the industry–one nonfatal accident in each of the last two years for fractional jets, and two nonfatal accidents for fractional turboprops last year. However, Part 91K jets were involved in two incidents last year and three in 2010. There were no incidents recorded for Part 91K turboprop operations in the two-year span.
Last year five accidents involving non-U.S.-registered jets on private, charter and government missions killed 68 people (including a charter with 44 people on board) compared with four accidents and 16 fatalities in 2010. Similar missions flown by non-U.S.-registered turboprops killed 55 people last year versus 59 in 2010. None of these accidents occurred on U.S. soil.
Accidents versus Incidents
Our tables show “incidents” as well as “accidents” because the FAA and NTSB draw fine distinctions between the two events, the agencies are inconsistent and the status of the occurrence may change. For example, runway overruns, retracted landing gear and gear-collapse mishaps are typically listed as incidents by the FAA and not tabulated at all by the NTSB. However, if such an occurrence causes substantial damage or serious injury, the NTSB would record it as an accident.
Other happenings, if they don’t result in serious damage or injury, are usually listed as incidents. They include precautionary engine shutdowns, flameouts, bird or other animal strikes, lightning strikes, window separations, doors opening, blown tires, system malfunctions, loss of control, parts departing an airplane and turbulence. Additionally, depending on what is found during the ensuing investigation, events initially classified as incidents are sometimes dropped from safety databases entirely if investigators consider them inconsequential. In our tables, some mishaps preliminarily listed officially as incidents have been bumped up to the category of accidents because of their more serious nature.