III.A. Accident Rate for Commuter Operations

The airline industry that uses airplanes with a passenger-seating

capacity of 60 or fewer seats to conduct scheduled operations under

parts 121 and 135 is an essential part of the air transportation

network in the U.S. These airlines now fly more than all airlines did

in 1958. In 1993, over 50 million passengers, 12 percent of the total

passenger flights in the country, were flown by these airlines. Half

of these passengers were flown in part 135 operations, i.e., in

aircraft with 30 or fewer seats.

Over the past two decades the safety record of part 135 commuters

has greatly improved. The accident rate per 100,000 departures in

1993 was one-fourth the accident rate in 1980. However, the accident

rate for commuter airlines operating under part 135 continues to be

higher than the rate for domestic part 121 airlines. In the past 2

years, several commuter airline accidents occurred that attracted

media and public attention and caused government and industry

officials to scrutinize the safety system for commuter operations

under part 135.

These accidents included the December 1, 1993, crash of a

Jetstream 3100, operated by Express II (as Northwest Airlink), at

Hibbing, MN; the January 7, 1994, crash of a Jetstream 4100, operated

by Atlantic Coast Airlines (as United Express), at Columbus, OH; and

the December 13, 1994, crash of a Jetstream 3200, operated by Flagship

Airlines (as American Eagle), at Raleigh-Durham, NC. All of these

accidents involved fatalities.