Fatal Turbine Airplane Accident Stats Show Little Change

 - November 2, 2013, 3:00 AM
AIN tables show “incidents” as well as “accidents” because the FAA and NTSB draw fine distinctions between the two events. Click to enlarge.

The number of fatal accidents involving turbine-powered business airplanes worldwide in the first nine months of this year held steady with the tally for the same period last year, although the number of people killed in U.S.-registered business jets dropped in the most recent nine months, according to preliminary figures compiled by AIN. For N-numbered business jets, 13 people were killed in four crashes in the first nine months of this year compared with 17 killed, also in four accidents, during the same period last year. All these accidents befell Part 91 operations. The four fatal U.S. jet crashes from January through September this year involved two Raytheon Premiers (two and five fatalities, respectively), a U.S.-registered Learjet 60 in Venezuela (two killed) and a CitationJet in which four perished. All these accidents were still in the NTSB preliminary investigation stages at press time.

There was a major improvement in U.S. business jet nonfatal accidents (defined for reporting purposes to include events ranging from major mishaps to less serious episodes that might incur little or no damage). Preliminary records indicate six nonfatal accidents involving N-numbered business jets in the first three quarters of this year versus 23 last year. Part 91 operators reduced nonlethal accidents to three from 19, and Part 135 mishaps dropped to two from three. The number of incidents involving jets flying under Part 135 remained the same–at three–in both periods. There were no accidents reported for jets being operated by manufacturers or public and government entities in either of the comparable periods.

Fractional jet operators continued their long multi-year streak of no fatal mishaps, although fractional jets were involved in one nonfatal accident in each of the two comparable periods. The single accident this year occurred when a Learjet 60 slid off the end of a runway while landing, resulting in minor damage and no injuries. Business jets operating under Part 91K experienced three incidents from January through September this year versus just one incident in the same period last year.

The U.S.-registered turboprop fleet also had fewer nonfatal accidents in the first nine months of this year compared with the same period last year: 21 versus 27, but there was a significant spike in the number of fatal accidents and fatalities. This year, 35 people perished in 11 crashes compared with eight killed in three crashes last year, all but two occurring under Part 91. Fractional turboprop flights were accident and incident free in the most recent three quarters, compared with one accident and two incidents during that time last year.

Part 135 turboprop operators, which had no fatalities in the nine-month period last year, experienced 11 fatalities in two crashes so far this year, including 10 who perished in the crash of a turbine Otter while on an air-taxi flight in Alaska. The other fatal air-taxi turboprop crash involved a Cessna Caravan on January 13. One person died in that accident. Incidentally, this Caravan crash and three nonfatal mishaps in turbine airplanes in the nine-month period involved the same operator. Nonfatal air-taxi turboprop accidents fell to two this year from four in the first nine months of last year. In the first accident, on July 20, a float-equipped, turboprop-converted Cessna 207 hit a fishing boat on its takeoff run, resulting in substantial damage and minor injuries. In the second, on September 12, a Pilatus PC-12 incurred substantial damage during an aborted takeoff. There were five incidents involving air-taxi turboprops in the most recent period versus four last year.

Non-U.S.-registered business jets were involved in eight mishaps in January through September this year compared with six last year, including one fatal crash in each of the two periods, resulting in two deaths, respectively. The single fatal crash in the most recent period involved a Cayman Islands-registered Premier. This aircraft was the third of its type to suffer a fatal crash in the period between February 20 and March 17. The other two were the N-numbered Premiers mentioned earlier. Non-N-numbered turboprops suffered 18 accidents, including 10 in which 38 people perished in the first three quarters of this year versus 20 accidents, also including 10 that killed 33 people, last year.

AIN tables show “incidents” as well as “accidents” because the FAA and NTSB draw fine distinctions between the two events, the agencies are frequently inconsistent, and the status of the occurrence may change. For example, runway overruns, retracted landing gear and gear-collapse accidents resulting in little or no damage are typically classified by the FAA as incidents and not tabulated at all by the NTSB. Other occurrences usually listed as incidents include engine shutdowns, flameouts, animal and lightning strikes, window separations, doors opening, blown tires, system malfunctions, loss of control, parts departing an airplane and severe turbulence. However, if such an occurrence causes substantial damage or serious injury, the Safety Board records it as an accident.