Compiling business jet and turboprop accident statistics has been an objective of mine since the early 1960s. When I was a Navy carrier pilot and safety officer—and later a Pan Am pilot—I met an insurance executive who was concerned about insuring the new business jets and turboprops being bought by corporations. As I had some 3,000 jet flight hours, I was retained as a consultant by the underwriter to visit and evaluate its operations. When Pan Am furloughed junior pilots, I went to work for the insurance underwriter to perform new-aircraft analyses, establish an engineering department, and supervise the company’s fleet of 12 piston aircraft. There I began to compile business turbine aircraft statistics.
During this period I served on the NBAA board of directors, was head of its safety committee, and made numerous statistical presentations at Flight Safety Foundation’s Corporate Aviation Safety Seminar, Bombardier’s Safety Standdown, and others. I also worked with Donald Engen to establish the AOPA Air Safety Institute’s light aircraft database.
I was then offered an opportunity to join the start-up team of SimuFlite, where one of my objectives was to secure an FAA exemption to use “advanced” simulators for training in lieu of aircraft. I showed the FAA that 52 business-jet accidents occurred during in-aircraft training from 1964 through 1980. We received the exemption, which benefitted both SimuFlite and FlightSafety International, the two training companies at the time. The accident rate began to fall (improve) so much that underwriters offered a reduced hull rate if companies trained in advanced simulators for both jets and turboprops.
In 1985 we saw a need for this data by aviation insurance underwriters and corporate operators and began publishing our Annual Business Turbine Aircraft Accident Review, where we identified by specific aircraft the accident rates, phase of operation in which the accident occurred, causal factors, and other pertinent information.
In review of this data over the years, we found several dominant trends. For example, more than 50 percent of the bizjet accidents and incidents continue to occur in the landing phase year after year (for turboprops, it’s 43 percent). Surprisingly, 76 percent of the jet accidents occur on 5,000-foot or longer runways, 10 percent on 4,000- to 5,000-foot-long runways, and 8 percent on runways shorter than 4,000 feet. Sixty-five percent were in VMC, and 24 percent were on contaminated runways. It is obvious that pilots are not adhering to positive landing techniques. They continue to land long, add a few knots to V REF—which is already 30 percent above stall speed—“grease it on,” delay reverser use, and use positive braking.
With respect to turboprops, accidents in the approach phase are higher with 17.6 percent occurring here, versus 7 percent in bizjets. My opinion is that many approach accidents involve single pilots, where it is apparent that the pilot gets to minimums and, being unfamiliar with the missed approach procedure, goes lower or performs an improper missed approach. I might add that single pilots have a 50-percent greater accident rate than aircraft flown by two pilots.
Single-engine turboprops, mostly flown by single pilots, are involved in a higher number of high-altitude upsets than other turboprops. It seems apparent that pilots are over-relying on the autopilot and when a malfunction occurs, loss of control follows. More instrument flight proficiency and upset training may be necessary.
Also noted over the years is that the number of reported incidents is increasing, and many result in serious damage. It is interesting to note that a turboprop can land gear up, and cause serious damage, yet this is classified as an incident—whereas a light jet can experience a gear collapse while taxiing, causing relatively light damage, and it is classified as an accident.
We believe that our annual reviews are invaluable to any bizjet or turboprop operator to aid in identifying specific aircraft problems, support the fact that short runways should not be used, and illustrate how business aviation safety compares to charter air taxi, fractionals, airline operations, single-pilot involvement, et cetera.
We publish the review annually and offer the complete study, including turbine helicopters, for $375; the jet section or turboprop section can be purchased separately for $175 each. For more see our website ( www.breilinginc.com) or call us at 561-338-6900.
Robert E. Breiling began compiling accident reports and analysis on business aircraft in 1980.