WASHINGTON — Accidents involving large chartered airplanes accounted for nearly two-thirds of the 526 deaths last year that gave the nation's large air carriers their worst fatality record since 1977, federal safety investigators reported Monday.
The National Transportation Safety Board said that 329 people were killed last year in three accidents involving large chartered aircraft, including the Dec. 12 crash of a military chartered Arrow Air DC-8 at Gander, Newfoundland, that killed 256 people.
The other two charter accidents were the crash in Reno of a Galaxy Airlines Lockheed Electra turboprop, in which 70 people died, and the crash in Kansas of a TPI International cargo plane that killed three people.
For large chartered air carriers, 1985 was the worst safety year since the safety board began compiling accident statistics in the early 1970s, safety board spokesman Ira Furman said.
Scheduled Airlines' Record
In addition, 197 people were killed in four of the 18 accidents involving large scheduled airlines that occurred last year, according to the board's annual compilation of statistics. These accidents included the crashes of a Delta L-1011 in Dallas, an Eastern Air Lines B-727 in Bolivia, a Midwest Express DC-9 in Milwaukee and a General Aviation cargo aircraft in Nashville.
The combined death toll for all the accidents is the worst fatality rate for the nation's larger commercial airlines since 1977, when 655 people were killed, the safety board said.
In the case of commuter airlines--scheduled carriers operating smaller airplanes on short-haul or regional routes--the safety board reported that the accident rate had "improved slightly." Commuters in 1985 had six fatal accidents, with 35 fatalities, compared to seven accidents that killed 48 people in 1984.
Air Taxi Accidents
At the same time, the safety board said that statistics for air taxis--smaller planes flown only when there is a demand for their service--were worse. In this category, there were 35 accidents involving 77 fatalities last year, compared to 23 accidents and 52 fatalities in 1984.
For general aviation, the report said private pilots "significantly" improved their accident record last year, showing fewer than 1,000 fatalities for the first time. In 1985, 937 people were killed in 490 accidents, it said.