U.S.-registered business jets and turboprops, which flew significantly more in 2021 than in 2020, also experienced more fatal accidents last year. According to preliminary figures compiled by AIN, business turbine airplanes suffered 16 fatal crashes in 2021, double the number recorded in 2020. What’s more, fatalities from last year’s accidents increased nearly 62 percent, from 18 passengers and crew killed in 2020 to 46 in 2021.
Twenty-three people were killed in six crashes of N-numbered business jets last year, compared with four in a single accident in 2020. All six of the fatal bizjet accidents in 2021 occurred during Part 91 flights.The single fatal crash in 2020 was the February 8 in-flight breakup of a Cessna Citation 501 in which the two pilots and two passengers died. The NTSB reports that the Citation broke up while climbing through 15,400 to 16,000 feet after its pilots reported “problems” with the autopilot and the left-side attitude indicator. The twin jet, whose rated pilot was flying from the right seat, was on a Part 91 personal flight in day IMC and had filed an IFR flight plan. This accident remains under investigation.
The six U.S.-registered business jet accidents and fatalities (shown in parenthesis) last year were: January 9, Cessna Citation V (one); May 4, Gulfstream IV in the Dominican Republic (one); May 29, Citation 501 (seven); July 26, Bombardier Challenger 605 (six); September 2, Citation XLS (four); and the Part 135 crash on December 27 of a Bombardier Learjet 35A (four). Investigation of all these accidents remains in the preliminary phase. Not included in AIN's analysis is the October 5 crash of a cargo Dassault Falcon 20 in which the two crew lost their lives.
Non-fatal mishaps of N-numbered business jets increased from 13 in 2020 to 19 last year. Reportable incidents ticked up from 65 to 69 year over year, including two involving aircraft manufacturers. There were no official reports of accidents or incidents involving operations under Part 91K, although several incidents involved fractional aircraft being flown under Part 135.
Instances of non-fatal accidents by U.S.-registered turboprops totaled 18 in both 2021 and 2020. However, fatal accidents increased nearly 30 percent year over year: seven accidents took the lives of 17 people in 2020 versus 10 crashes and 23 fatalities last year (the same number who perished in U.S. jet accidents in 2021). Updated information shows that all fatal N-numbered turboprop accidents occurred under Part 91 or its equivalent.
The fatal accidents of N-numbered turboprops last year were: February 7, Cessna Conquest (two fatalities); April 23, Swearingen SA226 (two); May 5, Mitsubishi MU-2 (three plus one on the ground); July 10, Beechcraft King Air C90 (two); July 18, C90 in Mexico (three); August 20, Daher TBM 700 (one); September 28, Rockwell 690 (three); October 8, Cessna Turbine P210 (four); November 15, King Air E90 (two); and December 10, Piper Meridian (one). Not shown in our charts or narrative is the December 10 crash of a cargo SA226 that killed one crewmember.
In 2021, two non-U.S. business jets had fatal accidents that claimed 10 lives compared with four accidents causing 14 fatalities in 2020. On April 20, the co-pilot died in the crash of a Learjet 35A in Brazil while undergoing a flight test or training. On December 15, all nine occupants died in the crash of a chartered GIV in the Dominican Republic. Fatal accidents involving non-U.S. registered turboprops quadrupled from two to eight, year over year, and the number of fatalities rocketed from nine in 2020 to 40 in 2021.
AIN's charts and narrative do not include mishaps involving solely cargo or military operations, illegal flights, shootdowns, or intentional crashes.