Cargo plane crashes accounted for six of the 20 fatal airliner accidents that occurred in 2019, according to data from the Aviation Safety Network. Sixteen people died in the cargo accidents, and 283 were killed overall, including 157 in the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX crash in March.
The deadliest of last year's six cargo accidents occurred Oct. 4, when five crewmembers died in the crash of a Ukraine Air Alliance Antonov An-12. The aircraft, which was carrying automobile spare parts between Spain and Turkey, crashed on approach to Lviv, Ukraine, where a refueling stop was planned. The cause of the accident is still under investigation.
Four of the six accidents occurred in the U.S. Among those was the Feb. 23 crash of an Atlas Air Boeing 767-300 freighter that was operating on behalf of Amazon Air from Miami to Houston when it crashed into Trinity Bay about 35 to 40 miles from Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the accident, the crash occurred when the 27-year-old converted freighter entered a rapid descent from 6,200 feet and impacted a marshy bay area.
On Dec. 19, the NTSB opened a public docket containing more than 3,000 pages of factual reports covering the various aspects of the investigation. The probable cause of the accident, which killed both pilots and a pilot from another airline who was riding in the jumpseat, has not been determined, but opening a public docket usually means an investigation is entering its final stages. An NTSB spokesperson said a public hearing to determine the cause would likely be scheduled for the first part of this year.
NTSB said the docket contains only factual information collected by its investigators and that conclusions about how or why the crash occurred should not be drawn from the information within the docket. A review of the material shows a focus on the Atlas pilots' training records.
The other U.S. accidents occurred on Feb. 8 when a Conquest Air Cargo Convair C-131 crashed near Miami; on Sept. 11, when a Convair CV-440 crashed on approach to Toledo, Ohio; and on Dec. 9, when a Cessna 208B Super Cargomaster crashed shortly after takeoff from Victoria Regional Airport in Texas.
The Aviation Safety Network statistics cover accidents involving commercially operated civil aircraft originally certified to carry 14 or more passengers.
At the end of 2018, the most recent year for which full data is available, about 7.5% of the 27,294 jet-powered aircraft in world airline fleets and 20.4% of the 5,413 turboprops were in all-cargo use, according to the International Air Transport Association, the trade association for international airlines. IATA statistics for 2014 through 2018 show that 21% of the 316 airliner accidents that happened during that period involved cargo operations. For the same period, 46% of the 41 fatal accidents involved cargo carriers.