Business jet aircraft suffered the worst global fatal accident rate of recent years in 2014, while the worldwide figures for business turboprops improved in comparison to 2013 and 2012.

According to the Flightglobal/Ascend Business Aviation Safety Losses report for 2014, the long-term trend in accident rates for business turboprops is improving, but that for business jets has more or less stalled over the last 10 years.

The 2014 business jet fatal accident rate was about one per 1,430 aircraft – a marked deterioration on one per 2,500 aircraft in 2013 and one per 3,300 aircraft in 2012. This even compares poorly with the rate for the first decade of the 2000s, which was one per 1,600 aircraft. Looking back further, however, one per 1,430 aircraft was better than the average for the 1990s, which was one per 900 aircraft.

Meanwhile, business turboprops improved, with a fatal accident rate of one per 770 aircraft – compared to one per 550 aircraft in 2013 and one per 590 aircraft in 2012. The 2014 figure shows a marked improvement over the annual average for the first decade of the 2000s, which was one per 560 aircraft. The average for the 1990s was one per 435 aircraft.

Although the turboprop improvement is from a relatively low base, business turboprops have started to close the gap after a lack of improvement in the fatal accident rate for business jets in recent years. Twenty years ago, on average, the fatal accident rate for business jets was about twice as good as that for business turboprops.

A rapid improvement in safety for the business jet fleet since that time meant that the accident rates for the two classes of aircraft diverged to the point where the business jet fatal accident rate was some four times better than for turboprops. However, by the end of last year the difference in rates narrowed.

Getting down to actual numbers, rather than rates, last year business jets suffered a total of 12 fatal accidents – four more than in 2013, and the largest annual number since the first jet-powered business aircraft entered service in the 1960s. However, there were six previous years in which there were 11 fatal accidents: 2003, 1996, 1991, 1985, 1980 and 1977. Fatal accidents in 2014 increased for the third year running, but the annual average for the current decade so far (2010-2014), at seven fatal accidents, is still better than the previous decade (7.6) and for the 1990s (8.2).

Business turboprops suffered 12 fatal accidents in 2014. This was, however, an improved result for this class in relative terms. There were 17 fatal accidents in 2013 and 16 in 2012.

The 2014 result brings the annual average number of fatal accidents for the current decade so far down to 12.8. The average for the previous decade was 15.4, and that for the 1990s was 16.7, so an encouraging trend appears to be established.

Safety over the longer term is still improving, with the fatal accident rate on a per-aircraft basis falling. However, for much of the last 20 or so years, this improvement has been doing little more than keeping up with the growth of the fleet – it has not been enough to reduce the frequency of accidents significantly.

As for fatalities, last year 54 passengers and crew died in the 12 business jet accidents, giving a simple average of 4.5 fatalities per fatal accident. This is compared with the 23 passengers and crew who died in the eight fatal accidents of 2013, and 25 casualties in the six fatal accidents in 2012. The 2014 result was the worst since 1996, in which year 69 people were killed in 11 fatal accidents.

The annual average number of business jet fatalities so far in the last 10 years is now 27.2, compared with the previous decade’s average of 23.4 – but it is an improvement on that for the 1990s, which was 35.9.

In business turboprop operations, a total of 36 passengers and crew died in last year’s 12 fatal accidents, giving a simple average of three deaths per fatal accident. In 2013, 62 passengers and crew died in 17 accidents, and in 2012, 51 died in 16 accidents. To put this in context, the annual average number of passenger and crew deaths for the existing decade so far is 44.2. That for the 2000s as a whole was 49.8, and for the 1990s it was 58.1.

The six worst accidents in 2014 include:

·A Diplomat Aviation (Bahamas) Learjet 35 (N17UF) loss on 14 November, which killed the seven passengers and two pilots when it undershot on approach to Freeport, Bahamas in instrument meteorological conditions.

·A Lineas Aereas Comerciales Hawker 125-700 (XA-UKR) on 19 April, which came down short on approach to Saltillo, Mexico, in poor visibility, killing six passengers and two crew.

·An Emar Associates Gulfstream IV (N121JM) on 31 May overran the runway following an aborted take-off at Hanscom Field, Massachusetts, killing four passengers and three crew.

·An AF Andrade Empreend e Particip Cessna Citation XLS (PR-AFA) which crashed in a built-up area of Santos, Brazil, while positioning for a second approach to the airport, killing the five passengers and two crew.

·An Embraer Phenom (N100EQ) operated by Sage Aviation crashed on final approach to Montgomery County airport, Maryland, possibly having stalled, killing the pilot and passenger plus three people in a house the aircraft hit.

·An Ambulancias Aereas de Colombia Beechcraft King Air C90 EPIC (HK-4921) which undershot the approach to Villavicencio, Colombia.

All but one of these fatal accidents took place during approach and landing.

Finally, if anyone lulled by the normally airline-like safety record of corporate aviation needed a reminder that nothing is sacred, the 20 October loss of a Unijet Dassault Falcon 50EX during take-off at Moscow Vnukovo airport killed the three crew members and the passenger – oil company Total’s chief executive Christophe de Margerie.

Source: Flight International