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FAA Meeting to Address Safety on Corporate Planes

By Sara Kehaulani Goo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 5, 2005; Page A06

The Federal Aviation Administration plans to convene a meeting this month with leaders of the business aviation industry to discuss safety improvements after a string of deadly accidents involving chartered corporate jets, an FAA official said yesterday.

On Wednesday, a jet carrying five employees of a New York investment firm ran off a runway at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, slamming into traffic on a nearby highway and bursting into flames at a nearby warehouse. No one was killed, but the accident reinforced the growing concern among safety officials that safety on corporate jets and air taxis needs more attention.

"I think we've tackled the problem of accidents in the [commercial airline] category -- they're at the lowest point they've ever been," said Laura Brown, an FAA spokeswoman. "This next focus is on some of the other types of operations out there."

There are 0.077 fatal accidents per million commercial airline flights, according to FAA data covering the past three years. In business aviation, there have been 0.33 fatal accidents per million flights over the same period, the agency said.

FAA officials have been concerned about the number of fatal accidents in the past year involving business aircraft and began planning a formal meeting with the industry in December, after a chartered jet carrying NBC executive Dick Ebersol and family members crashed shortly after takeoff in Colorado. The accident killed Ebersol's 14-year-old son and two crew members.

In November, a chartered Gulfstream crashed near Houston's William P. Hobby Airport on its way to pick up former president George H.W. Bush, killing all three crew members. In October, several family members of NASCAR owner Rick Hendrick died after his Beechcraft crashed into a mountain.

The FAA's Feb. 18 meeting will include discussions about improvements in pilot training and decision-making. Industry groups representing charter and air taxi companies said they have not been informed about the agenda.

"Everybody recognizes . . . there have been some accidents that have gotten a lot of attention," said Steve Brown, senior vice president of operations at the National Business Aviation Association. "In 2002 and 2003, the safety record had been improving. It had gotten to the point in 2003 where it was very, very comparable to the commercial aviation industry. That doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement."

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