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Year Starts Uneven for Business Aircraft Accidents

May 2, 2012

Fatal and nonfatal accidents involving U.S.-registered business jets increased notably in the first quarter of this year compared with the first quarter of last year. By contrast, non-U.S.-registered business jets had no accidents in the first quarter of this year; in the same period last year the segment had six accidents/incidents, three of which took a total of 12 lives. U.S.-registered turboprops suffered no fatal accidents in the recent first quarter compared with three in the same period last year. 


According to statistics gathered by AIN, in the first three months of this year 14 people (plus two people on the ground) were killed in three fatal accidents of U.S.-registered business jets. Two of those accidents occurred outside the U.S. In the year-ago period, there were no fatal accidents of U.S.-registered business jets, as well as fewer nonfatal accidents (10 then versus 12 now) and no recorded incidents, versus seven incidents in the just-passed first quarter.  

In all three fatal accidents in this year’s first quarter–two of them runway excursions on landing and one on approach–the aircraft were operating as private flights: a Gulfstream IV in the Congo that went off the runway after landing (killing four in the aircraft and two on the ground); a Citation 501S/P that went off the runway on landing at a North Carolina Airport (fatal to five people); and a Citation X on approach to an airport in Germany (also killing five people).

The previous first quarter in which there were more fatal accidents and fatalities involving U.S.-registered business jets was in 2008, when 15 people lost their lives in four accidents. Ironically, the first quarter of 2008 was also the previous period in which there were no fatal crashes of non-U.S.-registered business jets. The deadliest first quarter for business jet accidents in at least the last 16 years was a single accident in 2001 when a Gulfstream III on a Part 135 flight to Aspen, Colo., crashed, killing all 18 people on board. 

U.S.-registered turboprops suffered no fatalities in the first quarter compared with three in the same quarter a year ago (in which 11 people died), but nonfatal mishaps increased to 14 this year versus eight in the first period last year. The number of incidents also increased (from three to seven) for the year-over-year periods. 

Outside the United States, non-U.S.-registered turboprops posted a better first quarter this year than in 2011 for ­fatal mishaps. In this year’s first quarter, 12 people were killed in three non-U.S.-registered turboprop accidents during ferry, ambulance and government flights, respectively, compared with four crashes that killed 21 people in the first quarter of last year. 

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 mishap may change. For example, runway overruns, retracted landing gear and gear collapse mishaps are typically 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 NTSB would record it as an accident. 

Other mishaps, if they don’t result in serious damage or injury, are usually listed as incidents. They include precautionary engine shutdowns, flameouts, bird or other animal strikes, 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. In our tables, some mishaps preliminarily listed officially as incidents have been bumped up to the category of accidents because of their more serious nature. 

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