February 4, 2013

Though U.S. business jets flown by full-time crew last year added a fourth year to their fatality-free run, a new preliminary analysis of business aviation accidents showed that the total number of business jet accidents inched up, according to Bob Breiling, of Robert E. Breiling & Associates in Boca Raton, FL.

“In 2011, there were 14 total business jets accidents and no fatal crashes. In 2012, the overall number was 19 accidents, five of them fatal, with 21 fatalities,” Breiling said.

“Nine of the total business jet accidents, and three of the total fatal ones, occurred in on-demand operations,” he added. “And jets flown by professional crew suffered five accidents – with no fatalities.”

Breiling also highlighted an improvement in turboprop safety.

“U.S.-registered business turboprops were involved in 29 accidents in 2012, including seven fatal accidents and 15 fatalities, versus 43 total accidents with 13 fatal accidents and 32 fatalities during 2011,” he said.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) preliminary report for 2011 showed some marked improvements in business aviation safety more typical of the segment, observed Doug Carr, NBAA vice president, safety, security, operations & regulation. “Business aviation’s safety record reflects the community’s voluntary adoption of very high standards,” he said. “One accident is too many, and the only way to extend this safety record is by further advancing our safety knowledge, culture and commitment.”

In 2011, operations defined by the NTSB as business and corporate flying continued their declines in total fatal accidents and fatalities, while overall general aviation (GA) and on-demand air-taxi operations experienced increases in accidents, fatal accidents and fatalities.

Fatalities involving air taxi operations more than doubled in 2011, compared to 2010, contributing to a 3.8 percent increase in total aviation deaths in 2011. Air taxi mishaps also contributed to the spike in 2012 fatalities, Breiling said.

Total 2011 accidents involving on-demand Part 135 air taxis climbed to 50 from 31 in 2010, while fatal accidents rose to 16 from six and accounted for 41 fatalities, up 241 percent from 17 in 2010, according to the NTSB. In the same period, however, fatalities among private, business aircraft operations and air carriers declined: down 10 (2 percent) to 444 for GA, and for scheduled airlines down two to zero. The air taxi increase, combined with another nine deaths attributed to foreign and/or unregistered aircraft (triple 2010’s), pushed total aviation fatalities to 494, up 3.8 percent from 476 in 2010.

Landing safety may earn more preventive focus going forward. Breiling analyzed accidents dating back five years and found that upward of 40 percent of business aviation accidents occur in the landing phase – above 50 percent for jets flown by professional crew.