Annual Statistics Show Continued Improvement in Aviation Safety

Washington, DC --The state of civil aviation safety continued to improve in 2006, according to statistics released today by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The number of accidents in all segments of civil aviation in 2006 were less than in 2005, with general aviation recording the lowest number of accidents and fatal accidents in the 40 years of NTSB record keeping.

"This is very good news," said NTSB Chairman Mark V. Rosenker, "but it is no reason to let down our guard. We need to build on this improving record with a continued emphasis on safety in all phases of aviation."

Major air carriers who operate larger aircraft and carry passengers and cargo between major airports continued to have the lowest accident rates in civil aviation. These commercial carriers, who are officially classified by federal regulations as operating under 14 CFR Part 121, carried 750 million passengers more than 8 billion miles while logging more than 19 million flight hours in 2006. At the same time, these carriers had 31 accidents, down more than 20 percent from 2005. Only 2 of the 31 accidents were fatal, resulting in 50 fatalities.

Over the years, the number of major air carrier accidents has increased, primarily due to a substantial increase in flight activity. The number of flight hours logged by air carriers has almost doubled since 1987 and the number of departures has increased by 50 percent. Major air carriers experienced in 2006, on average, only 1 accident every 266 million miles, 630,000 hours flown, or 368,000 departures. Fatal accidents are rare events, occurring only .01 accidents per 100,000 flight hours or .018 accidents per 100,000 departures.

On-demand Part 135 operations that include air taxi, air tour, and air medical operations experienced more accidents than major air carrier operations. These operations typically use much smaller aircraft, including helicopters, and can service smaller airports. In 2006, on-demand part 135 operators had 54 accidents, down almost 20 percent from 2005, with 10 of those accidents resulting in 16 fatalities.

These air carriers flew more than 3.6 million flight hours in 2006, and recorded 1.5 accidents and .28 fatal accidents for every 100,000 hours flown. The number of on-demand Part 135 accidents has been steadily decreasing over the past 10 years, while the hours flown by these air carriers has steadily increased, producing a general downward pattern in accident and fatal accident rates.

Commuter operations (officially described as scheduled Part 135 operators) show a similar pattern to on-demand Part 135 air carriers, but account for a very small proportion of the accidents and flight activity. In 2006, commuter operators experienced only 3 accidents, one of them fatal, resulting in two fatalities. However, these operations account for only 1% of air carrier flight hours, resulting in 1.1 accidents and .36 fatal accidents per 100,000 hours flown. These rates are comparable to on-demand Part 135 operations.

The decline in General Aviation accidents in 2006 continues an ongoing trend. General Aviation accounted for the greatest number of civil aviation accidents and fatal accidents in 2006; a total of 1,515 accidents, 303 of them fatal, resulted in 698 fatalities. Although General Aviation accounts for half of all civil aviation flight hour activity, it produces the highest accident and fatal accident rates. Part of the decline in the number of General Aviation accidents was due to a steady decrease in the amount of flight activity. Since 1990, General Aviation hours flown has declined 20 percent, and as a consequence, the General Aviation accident rate stayed relatively stable in that period, averaging approximately 7.5 accidents per 100,000 flight hours.

The 2006 statistical tables are available at www.ntsb.gov/aviation/Stats.htm

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