Aircraft Accident Rate Drops in 2009

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reports that aviation safety performance for 2009 shows that the year’s accident rate for Western-built jet aircraft as the second lowest in aviation history. Compared to 10 years ago, the accident rate has been cut 36 percent from the rate recorded in 2000, but IATA noted significant regional differences.

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). While runway excursions and ground damage were the main categories of accidents, pilot handling was noted as a contributing factor in 30 percent of all accidents.

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. 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,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s director general and CEO.

IATA member airlines outperformed the industry average with a Western-built jet hull accident rate of 0.62. That rate is equal to one accident for every 1.6 million flights. “In 2009 IATA marked an important milestone in aviation safety. From April 1, all IATA members were on the registry of the IATA Operational Safety Audit - a testimony to our commitment to the highest global standards for operational safety. IOSA is the global standard. Today 332 carriers are on the registry, including IATA’s 231 members,” said Bisignani.

There are significant regional differences in the accident rate, IATA notes.

*    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.
*    Africa had 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 percent of global traffic, but 26 percent of global western-built jet hull losses.

“Safety is a constant challenge. Having made aviation the safest way to travel, further improvements will come only with careful data analysis. We must understand the underlying safety risk trends, not just from the handful of accidents each year, but by bringing together and analyzing data from millions of safe flights. The IATA Global Safety Information Center was launched in December 2009 for just that purpose. Going forward our goal is to work with other organizations and governments involved in aviation safety to add to the database and drive even more improvements,” said Bisignani.