statistics for commercial transport aircraft2 and the of aircraft fires are summarized in this section.

The FAA reported that for United States transport airlines, its 1981–1990 database showed there had been 1,153 fatalities, of which 535, or approximately half, had been associated with nonsurvivable accidents, and that the National Transportation Safety Board 1964–1988 database showed that about one-third of the fatalities had been associated with nonsurvivable accidents (FAA, 1991). The FAA data show that about 60 percent of the fatalities in survivable accidents are due to impact trauma (i.e., 30 percent of total fatalities), and the other 40 percent are due to fire (20 percent of total fatalities).

This section presents a summary of accident data from 1959 through 1993, using the Boeing database, which is representative of all data (Boeing Commercial Airplane Group, 1994). These data cover Western-manufactured commercial transport aircraft heavier than 60,000 pounds gross weight. Turboprop aircraft are not covered. Aircraft manufactured in the former USSR are not included because that database is incomplete. Military operators of commercial-type aircraft are also not included.

As shown in Figure 1-1, the number of commercial aircraft has steadily grown from about 1,000 in 1964 to 11,433 in 1993. The number of departures (flights) has increased from less than 2 million in 1964 to 13.86 million in 1993. Figure 1-2 shows that the number of accidents per million departures decreased rapidly from the introduction of jet aircraft in 1959, and has remained relatively constant for the past two decades at about two accidents per million departures in worldwide scheduled passenger operations. Figure 1-3 shows that the number of fatal accidents per million departures also decreased rapidly after 1959 and has remained relatively constant for the past two decades at about one accident per million departures, with about 500 annual fatalities involving occupants of the aircraft. The number of non-fire-initiated accidents that involve fire is about 0.7 accidents per million departures. The number of fire-initiated accidents is about 0.1 accidents per million departures (Murray, 1995).

Table 1-1 shows a synopsis of accidents occurring in passenger and cargo, and test, training, demonstration, and positioning operations since jet aircraft were introduced. From 1959 through 1993, there were 398 fatal accidents with 19,298 fatalities, of which 319 accidents and 18,956 fatalities were in passenger aircraft. In the 10-year period 1984–1993 there were 120 fatal accidents with 5,526 fatalities, of which 96 accidents and 5,397 fatalities were in passenger aircraft.

About half of accidents occur during final approach and landing, which is only about 4 percent of the flight time. Figure 1-4 shows the primary causes for accidents that occur on final approach and landing.

Figure 1-1 Fatal accident rates and fatalities. Source: Boeing Commercial Airplane Group (1994). Reproduced courtesy of The Boeing Company.


This study concerns commercial transport aircraft, that is, certified jet aircraft greater than 60,000 pounds maximum gross weight including those in temporary nonflying status and those in use by nonairline operators, but excluding military (and former Soviet Union) operations (Boeing Commercial Airplane Group, 1994:3).

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