Aircraft Accident Rate is Lowest in History - Still Room for Improvement, Regional Concerns Remain
Tokyo, 23 February 2011, The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced the aviation safety performance for 2010 showing that the year’s accident rate for Western-built jet aircraft as the lowest in aviation history.
The 2010 global accident rate (measured in hull losses per million flights of Western-built jet aircraft) was 0.61. That is equal to one accident for every 1.6 million flights. This is a significant improvement of the 0.71 rate recorded in 2009 (one accident for 1.4 million flights). The 2010 rate was the lowest in aviation history, just below the 2006 rate of 0.65. Compared to 10 years ago, the accident rate has been cut 42% from the rate recorded in 2001. A hull loss is an accident in which the aircraft is destroyed or substantially damaged and is not subsequently repaired.
“Safety is the number one priority. Achieving the lowest accident rate in the history of aviation shows that this commitment is bearing results. Flying is safe. But every fatality is a human tragedy that reminds us of the ultimate goal of zero accidents and zero fatalities. We must remain focused and determined to move closer to this goal year by year,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
In absolute numbers, 2010 saw the following results:
- 2.4 billion people flew safely on 36.8 million flights (28.4 million jet, 8.4 million turboprop)
- 17 hull loss accidents involving western-built jet aircraft compared to 19 in 2009
- 94 accidents (all aircraft types, Eastern and Western built) compared to 90 in 2009
- 23 fatal accidents (all aircraft types) compared to 18 in 2009
- 786 fatalities compared to 685 in 2009
- IATA member airlines outperformed the industry average with a Western-built jet hull loss rate of 0.25. That rate is equal to one accident for every 4 million flights. The IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) became a condition of IATA membership from 1 April 2009. All 234 IATA member airlines are now on the IOSA registry. The IOSA registry is open to all airlines and it currently consists of over 350 airlines.
“The numbers tell the story. In the first full year after the IOSA became a condition of IATA membership, the accident rate for IATA carriers has never been so low. The data confirms that IOSA is helping to drive safety improvements around the world. It is an important part of a comprehensive safety strategy involving governments and industry working together to further reduce the number of accidents and fatalities,” said Bisignani.
There are significant regional differences in the Western built jet hull loss accident rate:
North America (0.10), Europe (0.45), North Asia (0.34) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (0.0) performed better than the global average of 0.61
Asia-Pacific was higher than the global average at 0.80 in 2010 and about the same from the previous year (0.86)
The Middle East and North Africa region saw its accident rate fall significantly to 0.72 (compared to 3.32 in 2009) with only one accident involving a carrier from the region
Latin America & the Caribbean reported a higher accident rate of 1.87 with four airlines from the region involved in accidents, compared with a zero accident rate in 2009
Africa had an accident rate of 7.41, which was lower than the 2009 rate of 9.94. While showing improvement, Africa once again has the worst rate in the world. There were four Western-built jet hull losses with African carriers in 2010. African carriers are 2% of global traffic, but 23% of global western-built jet hull losses.
Safety in Africa
In 2010, the accident rate of IOSA carriers in Africa (for all aircraft types) was more than 50% better than non-IOSA airlines. Among IATA’s efforts in Africa, it established the IATA Program for Safe Operations in Africa (IPSOA). IPSOA ensured that flight data analysis tools are available to all IATA carriers in Africa, and as of the last quarter of 2010, all IATA carriers have this essential safety tool in place. IPSOA will provide IATA with the data needed to develop safety programs targeted at specific challenges in the region.
“Flying must be equally safe in all parts of the world. An accident rate in Africa that is over 12 times the global average is not acceptable. Improvements can happen. IATA’s African carriers performed significantly better than non-IATA airlines in the region. I encourage all governments in the region to make use of the IOSA tool to boost the region’s performance,” said Bisignani.
An analysis of the causes of the 2010 accidents focuses on several areas:
Runway excursions, which are instances when an aircraft departs the runway during takeoff or landing, were once again the most common cause of accidents, accounting for 21% of all accidents in 2010 (vs. 26% in 2009). The number of industry runway excursions accidents dropped by 13% (20 vs. 23 in 2009) and IATA members have reduced their runway excursion accidents by 43% since 2008 (4 vs. 7 in 2008).
IATA analysis shows about 35% of runway excursions on landing occurred on wet runways. Another leading cause of runway excursions on landing is an “unstable approach,” where the aircraft is approaching too fast, too high, or touches down beyond the desired runway touchdown point. IATA is working with industry and regulators to address this safety challenge.
In 2009, IATA released the Runway Excursion Risk Reduction (RERR) toolkit which provides high-level reference material as well as an in-depth analysis of runway excursion accident data and a compilation of significant risk factors. The toolkit also provides recommendations for operators, pilots, airports, air traffic management, and regulators. A major update to the RERR toolkit is planned for the spring of 2011 and will bring together all major international safety organizations in a collaborative effort to eliminate these types of accidents.
Ground damage accounted for 11% of all accidents in 2010, improved from 17% in 2008 when IATA launched the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO) to address this challenge. ISAGO is the industry’s first global standard for the oversight and auditing of ground handling companies. The program, containing over 400 standards, was launched in February 2008 and the first audits took place in May of the same year. To date, a total of 288 audits have been conducted and 56 providers operating at 81 different locations are already on the ISAGO registry. The program has gained broad support from several aviation authorities and airports and has been mandated in Lebanon and Turkey.
Data Driving Further Improvements
Further improvements to the industry’s safety performance will be guided by data that can assist airlines in identifying trends and initiate preventive measures. IATA established the Global Safety Information Center (GSIC) in 2010. This interactive website is a one-stop resource combining safety data from sources such as IOSA and ISAGO audits, flight data analysis, pilot reports and accident investigations without compromising commercial privacy.
“Safety is a constant challenge. Industry and governments need to accelerate their efforts on data sharing. In 2010, IATA launched GSIC providing its members with unprecedented access to safety information. More than 430 different organizations are already submitting safety data into the GSIC, and over 50% of IATA member carriers are participating. Substantial GSIC expansion is planned over the next few years and the industry will reap the benefits,” said Bisignani.
In September 2010, IATA signed an historic agreement with the International Civil Aviation Organization, the US Department of Transportation and the Commission of the European Union to launch the Global Safety Information Exchange. This first global private/public partnership will exchange safety information aimed at improving safety by reducing risk.
“Safety is not a competitive issue—among carriers or governments. Improvement is in everybody’s interest. By sharing data and best practices we will continue to drive improvements to make a safe industry even safer,” said Bisignani.