The 30 days between late October and late November last year was the worst period ever for serious turbine corporate airplane accidents in the U.S. During that approximately one-month period, 23 people–14 crewmembers and nine passengers–were killed in five separate accidents.
Aviation accidents and incidents
A Cessna 560 Citation V, registered HB-VLV and operated by Eagle Air of Bern, Switzerland, crashed on takeoff at Zurich Airport on Dec. 20, 2001, on a freezing cold night. The aircraft burned and both pilots–the only occupants–were killed. In its final report published on March 17, the Swiss Air Accident Investigation Bureau (BFU) lists pilot error as the main cause, but also points to other factors that contributed to the accident.
NTSB recommendations issued last month call on the FAA to step up its oversight of Part 135 operators to ensure that improper record-keeping practices are identified and corrected “before accidents occur.” Additionally, the FAA should establish “specific criteria” regarding the number of accidents or incidents that would trigger increased FAA oversight of a particular operator.
The first three months of this year saw a significant increase in fatalities involving business jets and turboprops compared with the same period last year, according to figures compiled by safety analyst Robert E. Breiling Associates of Boca Raton, Fla. In the first quarter of this year, the U.S.-registered fleet of turbine-powered business airplanes experienced 22 accidents, including five fatal ones that killed 24 passengers and crew.
With accidents decreasing by 8.7 percent and fatal accidents dropping by 11.6 percent, last year was the safest year for U.S. general aviation since the end of World War II.
Beech King Air 300, Daytona Beach, Fla., April 14, 2004–The pilot’s inadequate management of the airplane’s fuel system, resulting in fuel starvation, a loss of engine power, a forced landing and damage to the airplane was the probable cause of the accident.
Dassault Falcon 20, Pine Bluff, Ark., Dec. 5, 2004–The NTSB determined the probable cause of a Falcon 20 overrun was the pilot’s misjudgment of speed and distance. Contributing factors were the moderate rain and the reported encounter with hydroplaning conditions.
Although the NTSB has not yet determined a probable cause for the February 2 Challenger 600 accident at New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport, it has released a number of factual reports. Apparently, the Platinum Jet Management crew failed to perform weight-and-balance calculations properly and delayed its use of the thrust reversers when the jet failed to take off.
Noting that about two-thirds of all general aviation accidents that occur in IMC are fatal, the NTSB recently completed a study to better understand the risk factors associated with such accidents.
The Board used “case control methodology,” which compared a group of accident flights to a matching group of nonaccident flights to identify patterns of variables that distinguished the two groups from each other.
It is hard to believe that despite the passage of more than nine years since that hot July night, the discussion continues about TWA Flight 800, which crashed off the coast of Long Island in July 1996.