U.S. Business Jet Accidents on the Increase

 - August 1, 2012, 3:05 AM
Business Jet and Turboprop Accidents/Incidents (1H/2012 vs. 1H/2011)

Accidents involving N-numbered business jets operating outside the U.S. drove an increase in the total number of mishaps and fatalities in the first half of this year compared with the same period last year. According to preliminary figures compiled by AIN, there were 22 accidents, three of them fatal, in the first six months of this year versus 19, of which one was fatal, in the same period last year. There were no fatal accidents involving U.S.-registered business jets in the second quarter of this year; two of the three fatal accidents in the first quarter of this year occurred outside the U.S. and accounted for nine deaths in the aircraft and two on the ground. In all, 14 people were killed in three crashes by N-numbered business jets in the first half of this year compared with four people who died in a single jet crash in the first half of last year. The additional nonfatal crash outside the U.S. occurred on May 4 and involved a privately owned Sabreliner that went off the runway while landing in Venezuela.

U.S.-registered business turboprops were involved in one fewer accident over the two periods–21 in the first half of this year versus 22 in the first half last year. While the number of nonfatal accidents involving U.S.-registered turboprops mirrored the jet figures, namely 19 in the first half of this year versus 18 in the same time frame last year, fatalities decreased significantly; seven people died in two fatal accidents in the first half compared with 13 fatalities in four accidents in the first half of last year. There are no reports of accidents or incidents to N-numbered turboprops while operating outside the U.S. in the first half, compared with one last year–the May 24, 2011, fatal crash of a U.S.-registered, privately operated Beech King Air C90 in Nigeria.

Notably, there were no fatal Part 135 jet or turboprop accidents in the two first-half periods. In the first half of this year there were no serious accidents involving non-U.S.-registered business jets, versus three nonfatal and three fatal crashes (killing 12 people) in the first half of last year. The number of fatal accidents to non-N-registered turboprops increased to six from four over the two periods, but fatalities dropped to 19 from 21.

Our tables show “incidents” as well as “accidents” for three reasons: the FAA and NTSB draw fine distinctions between the two events; the agencies are inconsistent; and the status of the mishap can 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 were to cause 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 engine shutdowns, flameouts, animal and 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.

Some events preliminarily listed as incidents have been bumped up to the category of accidents because of their more serious nature. A good example of this in the first half of this year was the May 23 mishap in which the main entrance door separated from a Bombardier Challenger on a Part 91 positioning flight. It was originally listed by the FAA as an incident, but the NTSB bumped it up to the status of an accident after its preliminary investigation revealed extensive damage. According to the Safety Board, “The door sustained structural damage” and “an examination of the airplane revealed a puncture in the pressure vessel near the door frame.”