In mid-September, the NTSB released its preliminary aviation accident statistics for 2013, which contained two pieces of good news. First, the preliminary numbers show an overall decline in the number of U.S.-registered civil aviation accidents, which dropped sharply, from 1539 in 2012 to 1297 in 2013.
Second, general aviation accidents saw across-the-board reductions in both total numbers and occurrence rates. The total number of general aviation accidents dropped by 249 in 2013, bringing the total number down to 1222. The number of fatal accidents (221), fatalities (387) and the accident rate per 100,000 flight hours (5.85) also declined from the previous year.
In fact, the only dark spot on 2013s preliminary numbers involved the August 14, 2013, crash of UPS Airlines flight 1354, an Airbus A300-600, on approach to Birmingham, Ala., resulting in the deaths of the two flight crewmembers. (The NTSB wants you to know the crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 on approach to San Francisco is not reported in the NTSB statistics because it involved a foreign carrier.)
Meanwhile, the number of accidents involving scheduled Part 135 operations (commuter) increased from four in 2012 to eight in 2013, with three fatal accidents. On-demand Part 135 operations-charter, air taxi, air tour and aeromedical flights-showed increases in all categories during 2013. The number of total accidents (44), fatal accidents (10) and fatalities (27) all were higher, and the accident rate per 100,000 flight hours rose to 1.24 from 0.99 in 2012.
A quick glance at the NTSBs chart, below, covering 2003-2012, shows relatively flat trends over the past few years, so the early 2013 numbers, if they hold, are good news. I fear when 2014 is over with, however, well be right back where we started.