National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs
Washington, D.C. -- The National Transportation Safety Board today released its 1997 aviation accident statistics reflecting a marked decrease in the number of injuries and fatalities involving major U.S. airlines even while the number of carriers falling into that classification expanded in March of last year to include any plane with 10 or more seats operating scheduled passenger service.
New Federal Aviation Administration rules, in force since March 1997, brought a substantial number of Part 135 carriers under the more stringent Part 121, the regulations covering the major airlines. With approximately half the Part 135 fleet – conducting an estimated 80% of activity – now covered by different regulations, it is difficult to make comparisons between Part 121 and 135 accident statistics and draw conclusions based on previous years' data.
The 3 fatalities involving major airlines last year (2 of them passengers) compares to the 342 deaths on major U.S. carriers in 1996, in which 230 people lost their lives on TWA flight 800 and 110 died on ValuJet flight 592. There were 42 accidents on scheduled Part 121 carriers last year, 10 more than in 1996. The 2 fatalities aboard major carriers in 1997 represents a statistical average of 312.5 million enplanements per passenger fatality, the best since 1993 in which there were no passenger deaths on a major U.S. carrier.
The two fatalities on board major carriers operating on scheduled service involved a Continental Airlines passenger who fell through an open catering door while boarding a Boeing 757 in Lima, Peru and an unrestrained passenger killed when a United Airlines Boeing 747 on which she was riding encountered turbulence over the Pacific Ocean. A third fatality occurred last year when a ground crew member was crushed by the nosewheel of a Delta Airlines L-1011 at LaGuardia Airport.
There were five fatal accidents involving Part 135 scheduled carriers, the most deadly involving Comair Airlines. All 29 passengers and crew aboard an Embraer 120 died as the plane was being vectored for final approach into Detroit (the accident occurred in January, before such service would have fallen under Part 121). This accident accounts for more than half the 46 fatalities on all scheduled 135 operations last year. In 1997 the total number of crashes and fatalities jumped significantly from the previous year during which there was only one fatal crash with 14 victims.
Air taxi accident rates dropped in 1997, as did the number of accidents and fatalities.
Charter airlines operating under Part 121 registered lower accident and fatal accident rates than in 1996. One of the 7 accidents was fatal. A Fine Air DC-8 cargo aircraft crashed on takeoff from Miami International Airport, claiming the lives of all four crewmembers and one bystander on the ground.
The number of general aviation accidents fell slightly last year, from 1,905 in 1996 to 1,854 last year. There were, however, 15 more fatalities than last year involving U.S. registered general aviation aircraft, with 646 fatalities. That number is the second lowest in 15 years in a year in which there were an estimated 24.7 million flight hours by general aviation pilots.
Not included in the Board's statistics is the August crash of Korean Air flight 801 in Guam, on which 228 of the 254 occupants perished. NTSB maintains accident rates of U.S.-registered aircraft only.
The Safety Board defines an accident as an event that results in substantial damage to an aircraft or serious injury to a person. Statistical tables covering aircraft accident data for the past 16 years are on the Aviation Statistics page.
Attached: Eleven NTSB aviation statistical charts that give additional details.
NTSB Media Contact: Matt Furman
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.