According to preliminary aviation accident statistics for the 2008 calendar year released today by the National Transportation Safety Board released, some industry sectors showed improvements while accident rates increased in others.

“While the overall aviation safety record in the United States is among the best in the world, the 2008 accident statistics reveal a mixed picture,” said NTSB Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker in a press statement. “We are particularly concerned with the spike in fatalities in on-demand air charter operations. There's a lot of room for improvement in this area, and as evidenced by our recent forum on emergency medical service helicopter accidents, we continue to do everything we can to identify the safety issues involved, and to advocate for the adoption of our recommendations that will make the skies safer.”

On-demand flight operations (classified by regulators as operating under the federal code 14 CFR Part 135), which include air medical, air taxi and air tour flights, logged over 3.6 million flight hours and had 56 accidents, killing 66 people — the highest number of fatalities since 2000; there were 43 fatalities in 2007. The accident rate per 100,000 flight hours (1.52) remained virtually unchanged from 2007 (1.54).

The number of accidents involving large commercial carriers (Part 121) was 28 in both 2008 and 2007. In both scheduled and non-scheduled services, the airlines carried 753 million passengers on over 10.8 million flights without a passenger fatality.

In 2008, commuter airlines (also operating under Part 135 in the federal code) that typically fly smaller turboprop aircraft made 581,000 flights, logging over 290,000 hours. These operators had seven accidents, none of which resulted in fatalities. This is an increase from three accidents in 2007.

In general aviation, there were 1,559 accidents, 275 of which involved fatalities, killing a total of 495 - one fewer than the previous year. The GA accident rate per 100,000 flight hours was 7.11, up from 6.92 in 2007. In the last 20 years, the highest accident rate was 9.08 in 1994; the lowest rate was 6.33 in 2006.

Federal legislation defines an aircraft accident as an occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft which takes place between the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of flight and all such persons have disembarked, and in which any person suffers death or serious injury, or in which the aircraft receives substantial damage.

The 2008 statistical tables are available at