The NTSB has released the accident statistics for the calendar year 2018, and the news isn’t as good as we’d like. Not that nearly 400 fatalities per year is anything but a terrible state of affairs, but that terrible, though improving record got a little worse.
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The Safety Board said in its release that civilian deaths increased from 347 in 2017 to 393 in 2018, an increase of 46 deaths. A total of 330 of those deaths were in general aviation planes, a large category that includes everything from Light Sport models to jets flying under Part 91. And the airline sector saw its first fatality in a decade, when a passenger aboard Southwest Airlines Flight 1380 experienced an uncontained engine failure, breaching the pressure vessel and killing a passenger.
In general aviation, there were 381 fatalities in 1,275 accidents, of which 225 were fatal mishaps. Flight hours in 2018 were down slightly compared to 2017, so the accident rate was marginally higher, at a rate of 1.029 per 100,000 flight hours, compared to .935 the prior year.
In the NTSB’s release, Chairman Robert Sumwalt said that “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,” and added that “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.”