U.S. Fatal Bizav Accidents Plummet 50% in 2020

 - January 7, 2021, 11:30 AM

Reduced flying in the year of the pandemic also saw significantly fewer fatal accidents involving U.S.-registered business jets and turboprops. According to preliminary figures compiled by AIN, business turbine airplanes experienced eight fatal accidents last year versus 16 in 2019—a 50 percent decrease. What's more, fatalities from last year's mishaps plunged more than 72 percent, from 77 passengers and crew killed in 2019 accidents to 21 last year. However, non-fatal accidents increased 34.8 percent year-over-year, from 23 in 2019 to 31 in 2020.

Twenty-four people died in five accidents involving N-numbered business jets in 2019 compared to four in one accident last year. All six fatal accidents for both periods occurred under Part 91. The single fatal crash last year was the February 8 in-flight breakup of a Cessna Citation 501 in which the two pilots and two passengers died during an IFR Part 91 personal flight in day IMC. This accident remains under investigation.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators have completed their investigations into three of the five fatal accidents in 2019. An unidentified electrical system malfunction that led to the pilots losing situational awareness in IMC resulting in a loss of control was determined to be the probable cause for the April 13, 2019 crash of a Rockwell International Sabreliner 65 in which the three occupants died. The twinjet was on a Part 91 personal flight.

The pilot's failure to fully advance the power levers during the takeoff and initial climb led to insufficient airspeed resulting in an excessive angle of attack and a subsequent aerodynamic stall was determined to be the probable cause of a Cessna Citation 550 crash on May 22, 2019. The aircraft was on a Part 91 personal flight and the pilot and his passenger died in the crash.

Two days later, on May 24, 2019, the sole airline transport pilot on a repositioning flight in a Citation 560 was killed when the airplane descended into the Atlantic Ocean. The jet was at 39,000 feet when the pilot became unresponsive to ATC and the airplane continued more than 300 miles past the destination airport before it descended into the sea. Neither the pilot nor the airplane were recovered. 

Meanwhile, authorities are reportedly still engaged with investigating the crash of a U.S.-registered Bombardier Challenger that went into an uncontrolled descent and crashed in Mexico on May 5, 2019. The airplane was said to be carrying three crewmembers and 13 passengers, all of whom perished.

Still under investigation also is the March 18, 2019 crash on short final of an Israel Aircraft Industries Westwind 1124 that rolled left and became inverted before hitting terrain. Both pilots were killed. The aircraft was on a Part 91 flight in VMC. Examination of the wreckage revealed the left thrust reverser was open and the right thrust reverser was closed.

Meanwhile, U.S.-registered turboprops suffered seven accidents that resulted in 17 fatalities last year, compared with 11 accidents that killed 53 in 2019. Except for one Part 135 fatal accident in each of the two years, the remainder occurred under Part 91.       

But fatal accidents of non-U.S.-registered jets doubled from two in 2019 to four in 2020, with the number of fatalities more than tripling from four in 2019 to 14 last year. Two of the four fatal accidents involved ambulance charter flights. On March 29, 2020, all eight people aboard an air ambulance Philippine-registered IAI Westwind were killed when the twinjet crashed on takeoff. And the copilot died on May 5, 2020, when his Argentine-registered Learjet 35A air ambulance crashed on approach. 

On Jan. 23, 2020, a Citation S/II of the South African Civil Aviation Authority conducting a survey flight crashed into the Outeniqua Mountains. The three occupants were killed. On March 13, 2020, a Venezuelan-registered CitationJet 525 exited the runway after landing and caught fire, killing both pilots.    

Fatalities from non-U.S.-registered turboprops dropped nearly 70 percent year-over-year—30 from seven crashes in 2019 versus 10 from three accidents last year.