June 26, 2012

At a recent National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hearing on general aviation (GA) safety, NTSB Chair Deborah A. P. Hersman pointed to business aviation’s stellar safety record as an example for other segments of the industry.

“Look at… the great safety record in corporate aviation, where crashes and fatalities have plummeted dramatically in the last few decades,” said Hersman at the opening of the hearings on June 19 and 20. “It’s now summer, peak flying season. Now is the time to bring down the number of (recreational flying) accidents and…deaths.”

The NTSB did not include business flying safety in its two-day hearings because of that industry segment’s already-enviable safety record. The latest available figures from long-time industry analyst Robert E. Breiling Associates, Inc. show the 2011 corporate flying accident rate at just 0.061 per 100,000 flight hours. For airlines that year, the accident rate was 0.175.

“Business aviation’s safety record reflects the community’s voluntary adoption of very high standards,” said Doug Carr, NBAA vice president, safety, security, operations and regulation. “One accident is too many, and the only way to extend this safety record is by advancing our safety knowledge, culture and commitment.”

NTSB aviation investigator Jill Demko underscored that point at the start of the hearings, using a large chart with accident rates for various GA industry segments. Pointing to a line drawn in a vivid color to avoid confusion with the chart baseline, she said, “The accident rate for corporate operations is the red line, near zero.” She also identified the second-lowest accident rate shown on the chart, at about two accidents per 100,000 flight hours, as business flying.

“Corporate flying” are flights supporting a business and conducted by two pilots who receive compensation for flying. “Business flying” is defined as trips flown by a businessperson who is not directly compensated for piloting an aircraft. Accident rates for other GA segments ranged up to more than 12 per 100,000 flight hours for personal flying.

NBAA has always placed safety for businesses using their own aircraft at the top of its priorities. In 2010 testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Aviation, NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen reminded legislators that the Association “views its most important responsibility as advancing business aviation safety and fostering development of industry safety best practices.”

In 1953, NBAA established the Flying Safety Awards Program, which annually honors Members for achieving safety milestones. In 2011, two NBAA Member Companies received awards for 60 or more years of flying without an accident. Over the years, NBAA has partnered with numerous organizations to further business flying safety.

Among the Association’s most recent initiatives are collections of articles and online courses on dozens of safety topics, including aircraft icing, runway safety, aircraft climb performance, handling of hazardous materials and training guidelines for smaller jets, along with the importance of safety management systems (SMS).

View NBAA’s online SMS resources.