U.S. Aviation Fatalities Rose in 2018

General aviation was responsible for the majority of fatalities.

pilot flying small plane
General aviation fatalities climbed 15 percent in 2018.Kristopher Allison/Unsplash

The NTSB last week said its preliminary data showed U.S. civil aviation deaths in 2018 rose from the 347 reported in 2017 to 393 last year with most of those 2018 fatalities occurring in general aviation operations. General aviation was in fact responsible for 1,275 accidents in 2018 that included 381 of the fatalities, fully a 15 percent rise over the 331 people who lost their lives in 2017. These data pushed up the fatal accident rate in general aviation to 1.029 accidents per 100,000 flight hours, compared to 2017’s rate of 0.935.

The remainder of the fatal accidents occurred in Part 135 on-demand operations although the 2018 total, 12, represented nearly a 30 percent decline from 2017 when 16 people died in air taxi operations.

NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt said, “It is disappointing to see the fatal general aviation accident rate increase after two years with the rate below 1.0 per 100,000 flight hours. Although the fatal accident rate for Part 135 operations decreased in 2018, in recent years the NTSB has investigated some Part 135 accidents that had glaring safety deficiencies. “Aviators in both the general aviation and Part 135 communities need to renew their emphasis on building and sustaining a safety culture, and recipients of our safety recommendations in this area need to implement those life-saving recommendations.”

Part 121 air carriers recorded just a single fatality in 2018 when a passenger aboard a Southwest Airlines flight died following the uncontained failure of that Boeing 737’s CFM International CFM-56-7B engine that exploded shortly after takeoff. Metal fragments from the explosion punctured the cabin compartment next to the passenger who lost her life when the cabin depressurization that followed sucked her out of a nearby window.