NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


February 21, 1997

Washington, DC -- The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) today released 1996 aviation accident statistics showing an increase in the number of airline passenger deaths and major accidents over previous years, while general aviation deaths and fatal accident rates declined to a 15-year low

Last year's mixed results also show the lowest fatal accident rate for scheduled commuter operations, but the highest fatal accident rate for air taxis in the last 15 years.

Overall, the NTSB's preliminary data show that 1,070 people lost their lives last year in 2,040 civil aviation accidents. In 1995, 962 people died in 2,175 accidents.

In addition to standard statistical tables, this year's report features, for the first time, new accident classifications formulated by the NTSB. These new classifications give a more accurate view of accidents by air carriers with large aircraft.

380 Die In Large Carrier Accidents

A total of 380 people were killed in accidents involving U.S carriers operating scheduled and charter (nonscheduled) passenger airline service with aircraft equipped with 30 or more seats and cargo carriers with large aircraft - the second highest number of deaths since the NTSB revised its statistical analysis data in 1982. In 1995, a total of 168 people were killed in large carrier accidents and 239 were killed in 1994. The largest number of fatalities for these carriers was recorded in 1985 when 526 people died.

Based on its new, expanded statistical data for carriers with large aircraft, reported for the first time this year, the NTSB shows there were six "major" airline accidents in scheduled and nonscheduled service in 1996. In the past 15 years, only two years had more major accidents - eight each in 1985 and 1989. In 1995 there were 3 major large carrier accidents and four in 1994. The major accident rate in 1996 per million hours flown was 0.439 - the fifth highest in the last 15 years.

A "major" accident is defined as one in which any of three conditions exist:

The new classifications also include categories for "serious," "injury" and "damage" accidents for carriers with large aircraft and corresponding accident rates per million hours flown. In 1996, there were no serious accidents reported, 18 injury accidents and 14 damage accidents. A year earlier, in 1995, there were two serious accidents, 14 injury accidents and 17 damage accidents.

Of the 380 people killed in 1996, 319 were airline passengers. The 61 others were airline crewmembers and civilians on the ground. Based on passenger deaths in 1996, one passenger in 1.8 million was killed in scheduled and non-scheduled service. Similar ratios were recorded in 1988 and 1989. In only two years out of the last 15 was that rate higher. In 1982, one passenger in 1.4 million was killed and in 1985, one in 800,000 died. There were no passenger fatalities in 1993, and in 1984 one passenger in 352 million was killed.

Last year, scheduled large U.S. airlines surpassed all previous years in the numbers of hours flown, flight hours and departures. In 1996, large scheduled U.S. carriers logged 12.9 million flight hours, flew more than 5.4 billion miles and had about 8.2 million departures - all aviation records. With few exceptions, these numbers have increased steadily from 1982 statistics, which showed 6.7 million flight hours, 2.8 billion miles flown and 5.2 million departures.

The worst U.S. airline accident in 1996 was the inflight explosion of a TWA Boeing 747, which crashed off Long Island on July 17, killing all 230 on board. A ValuJet DC-9 crashed in the Florida Everglades on May 11 after an inflight fire. All 110 on board died. Two passengers were killed when a Delta Air Lines MD-88 suffered an uncontained engine failure in Pensacola, Florida on July 6.

Also in 1996, a total of 38 people were killed in two accidents involving non-scheduled cargo carriers operating large aircraft. A Northern Air Cargo DC-6 crashed at Russian Mission, Alaska, on July 20, killing all four aboard. On Oct. 22, a Millon Air cargo Boeing 707 crashed in a residential area in Manta, Ecuador, killing four on board and 30 civilians on the ground.

Scheduled Commuter Carriers Post Lowest Fatal Accident Rate

Scheduled commuter airlines, those with less than 30 seats, posted their lowest fatal accident rate in 15 years -- 0.032 per 100,000 departures. A total of 14 people were killed in the Quincy, Illinois, November 19 runway collision of a commuter and private plane. In 1996, there were almost 3.2 million commuter departures nationwide. Nine people were killed in scheduled commuter accidents in 1995 and 25 lost their lives in 1994.

Air Taxi Fatality Rate Highest

On-demand air taxis reported their highest fatal accident rate in the past 15 years - 1.42 per 100,000 flight hours. In 1996, 59 people died in air taxi accidents, compared to 52 in 1995 and 63 in 1994.

General Aviation Records Both Lowest Rate and Number of Fatalities

General aviation logged its safest year in recent history, in terms of both the number of people killed and fatal accident rate. General aviation includes private pleasure flying and corporate, government, and individual business travel, as well as training, aerial application and other work use.

In 1996, 631 people lost their lives in general aviation accidents, the lowest in the past 15 years. General aviation has seen a steady decline in deaths. In 1982, 1,187 people were killed in general aviation accidents. In 1995, 733 people died and 730 were killed in 1994. The fatal accident rate per 100,000 flight hours was 1.51, apparently the lowest in the past 15 years based on preliminary FAA flight hour estimates.

NTSB statistics include all civil aviation accidents within the United States and its territories and accidents by U.S. air carriers and U.S. registered aircraft outside of the United States.


Note: This press release focuses on accident rates that are most appropriate for specific aviation categories:

Media Contact: NTSB Office of Public Affairs
(202) 314-6100



The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.