U.S. civil aviation deaths increased from 347 in 2017 to 393 in 2018, according to preliminary statistics released by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The year saw the nation’s first airline passenger fatality since 2009, when a passenger on a Southwest airliner was killed in connection with an engine failure.
However, most aviation deaths in 2018 took place during general aviation operations, when 381 were killed, compared to 331 the year before.
The fatal accident rate in general aviation was 1.029 accidents per 100,000 flight hours, compared to 2017’s rate of 0.935.
Accidents in On-Demand Part 135 operations, which encompass charters, air taxis, air tours, and medical services (when a patient is on board), claimed 12 lives, down from 16 in 2017.
“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,” said NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt.
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, officials reported.
“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.”
The statistics do not detail potential reasons for the increase in fatalities in U.S. aviation, NTSB officials said.
They added the NTSB has addressed aviation safety in both the general aviation and Part 135 communities, including highlighting safety issues on its Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements. “Improve the safety of Part 135 aircraft flight operations” is on the NTSB’s 2019-2020 Most Wanted List and the agency recently held a roundtable in Anchorage, Alaska, to identify solutions to Part 135 flight operations safety.