Aircraft Accident Rate Second-Lowest in History

The accident rate in 2009 for Western-built jet aircraft was the second lowest in aviation history, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The 2009 global accident rate (measured in hull losses per million flights of Western-built jet aircraft) was 0.71. That is equal to one accident for every 1.4 million flights. This is a significant improvement of the 0.81 rate recorded in 2008 (one accident for 1.2 million flights).

The 2009 rate was the second lowest in aviation history, just above the 2006 rate of 0.65. Compared to 10 years ago, the accident rate has been cut 36% from the rate recorded in 2000.

In absolute numbers, 2009 saw the following results:
● 2.3 billion people flew safely on 35 million flights (27 million jet, 8 million turboprop)
● 19 accidents involving western built jet aircraft compared to 22 in 2008
● 90 accidents (all aircraft types, Eastern and Western built) compared to 109 in 2008
● 18 fatal accidents (all aircraft types) compared to 23 in 2008
● 685 fatalities compared to 502 in 2008

“Safety is the industry’s number one priority,” says Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s director general and CEO. “Even in a decade during which airlines lost an average of US$5 billion per year, we still managed to improve our safety record. Last year, 2.3 billion people flew safely. But every fatality is a human tragedy that reminds us of the ultimate goal of zero accidents and zero fatalities.”

There are significant regional differences in the accident rate.
North Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean as well as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) had zero western-built jet hull losses in 2009
North America (0.41) and Europe (0.45) performed better than the global average of 0.71
Asia-Pacific’s accident rate worsened to 0.86 in 2009 (compared to 0.58 in 2008) with three accidents involving carriers from the region.
The Middle East and North Africa region saw its accident rate rise to 3.32 (compared to 1.89 in 2008) with four accidents involving carriers from the region.
Africahad an accident rate of 9.94, significantly higher than their 2008 rate of 2.12. Africa has once again the worst rate of the world. There were five Western-built jet hull losses with African carriers in 2009. African carriers are 2% of global traffic, but 26% of global western-built jet hull losses.

An analysis of the causes of the 2009 accidents focuses on three main areas:

Runway excursions continue to be a challenge and accounted for 26% of all accidents in 2009. However, the total number of runway excursions dropped by 18% (23 vs 28 in 2008). IATA released its Runway Excursion Risk Reduction Toolkit in 2009, with an updated version to be produced later this year. The toolkit is incorporated with IATA’s broad ranging safety data tools in the IATA Global Safety Information Center (GSIC), a customizable website which will enable users to extract relevant safety information through a single application and enable them to perform performance benchmark and conduct trend analysis and risk management.

Ground damage accounted for 10% of all accidents in 2009. To improve safety and reduce this US$4 billion annual industry cost, IATA introduced the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO). Built on similar principles to IOSA, ISAGO is a global standard for the oversight and auditing of ground handling companies. The first audits took place in 2008. To date a total of 149 audits have been conducted.

While runway excursions and ground damage were the main categories of accidents, pilot handling was noted as a contributing factor in 30% of all accidents. IATA’s Training & Qualification Initiative (ITQI) is pushing for harmonizing a competency-based approach focused on training real skills while addressing threats presented by accident/incident reports and flight data collection and reporting. IATA will also work through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to develop a Fatigue Risk Management System as part of the Safety Management System. This will be a new process to systematically manage crew fatigue taking into account changes in aircraft capabilities and airline operations.

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