It's Official: 2006 Safer Than 2005, But GA Hours Continue Downward Trend

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Civil aviation safety continued to improve in 2006, according to NTSB numbers released yesterday. According to those statistics, the number of accidents throughout all segments of civil aviation in 2006 was less than in 2005, with general aviation recording the lowest number of accidents and fatal accidents in the 40 years of NTSB record keeping. To no one's surprise, major air carriers continued to rack up the lowest accident rates in civil aviation, while 2006 accidents among on-demand Part 135 operations -- including air taxi, air tour and air medical operations -- were down almost 20 percent from 2005. "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 in 2006 carried 750 million passengers more than 8 billion miles while logging more than 19 million flight hours. At the same time, these carriers had 31 accidents, down more than 20 percent from 2005. Only two of the 31 accidents were fatal, resulting in 50 fatalities. 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. The decline in general aviation accidents continues an ongoing trend, according to the NTSB. General aviation accounted for the greatest number of total and fatal accidents last year -- 1,515 accidents, 303 of them fatal, resulting in 698 fatalities. Part of the decline in GA accidents is due to a steady decrease in the industry's flight activity, said the NTSB. Since 1990, GA hours flown has declined 20 percent and, as a consequence, the accident rate has remained relatively stable, averaging approximately 7.5 accidents per 100,000 flight hours.