U.S.-registered business jets and turboprops experienced fewer nonfatal accidents in 2012 versus 2011, but N-numbered business jets incurred significantly more fatal accidents and fatalities last year than in 2011, recording the highest totals since 2008. Conversely, U.S.-registered turboprops incurred considerably fewer accidents and fatalities in the year-over-year comparison.
According to statistics gathered by AIN from air safety investigative sources worldwide, nonfatal crashes involving U.S. business jets dropped from 31 in 2011 to 29 last year. However, 24 people were killed last year in five accidents involving U.S.-registered business jets, compared with four fatalities in just one accident in 2011. That one fatal jet accident in 2011 happened under Part 91, during a U.S. manufacturer’s test flight. The previous year in which the number of U.S. business jet fatalities exceeded 24 was in 2008, when 27 people were killed in seven accidents.
Four of the five fatal U.S. business jet accidents last year occurred while these N-numbered aircraft were flying outside the U.S. Additionally, in all but one of the mishaps the aircraft was clearly operating under Part 91 or its equivalent. It’s unclear what rules, if any, covered an accident in which all seven people aboard a Learjet 25 registered to a U.S.-based management company were killed when the aircraft crashed in Mexico on Dec. 9, 2012. Investigators in Mexico said the pilot might not have been properly certified and that the flight might have been an illegal charter. The management company claims the aircraft was being operated legally under Part 91. While an official determination is under way, AIN has listed this accident under Part 91 in the accompanying chart.
Last year there were seven fatal accidents involving N-numbered turboprops (all but one of the aircraft were flying under Part 91 at the time, and the other was a Part 135 charter), resulting in 15 fatalities versus 29 fatalities in 11 accidents in 2011. Nine of those 2011 crashes happened under Part 91; the other two were flying as Part 135 charters.
Internationally, two people were killed in one fatal accident involving a non-U.S.-registered business jet operating privately in 2012, compared with five crashes (two involving chartered business jetliners) that took 68 lives in 2011. Forty-two people were killed in 15 fatal accidents involving non- U.S.-registered turboprops last year, versus 13 fatal accidents and 55 fatalities in 2011.
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 typically are 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 Safety Board records 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.