IATA Report Shows Aviation Accidents Decreased From 2012 to 2013, Africa Makes Progress

airlineThe International Air Transport Association (IATA) released its 2013 commercial aviation safety performance that showed 210 fatalities from commercial aviation accidents in 2013. That's down from 414 in 2012.

The 2013 safety figures were released in conjunction with the start of the IATA OPS Conference under way today and tomorrow in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 

In his keynote address at the conference, Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and CEO, said partnerships are driving progress in safety. "About 100,000 flights are operated safely each day," he stressed.  "Every flight that takes off involves thousands of coordinated actions across multiple businesses and organizations.

"To keep flying safe, we need not only to understand and work with each other every day," said Tyler, noting it was important to compare notes, collaborate and work together to build the future with a common vision.

He also stressed that no matter how hard airlines compete within an industry sector or how different they see the world when it comes to thorny commercial issues, "we are an industry that is absolutely unified in its dedication to global standards and safety."

Safety Report Highlights 

Among the safety report's major findings? IATA said the 2013 global Western-built jet accident rate -- measured in hull losses per million flights of Western-built jets -- was .41, the equivalent of one accident for every 2.4 million flights.

This was not as good a performance as 2012, when that rate was .21, the lowest in aviation history. But when considering a five-year period (2009-2013), 2013 showed a 14.6 percent improvement on the five-year average of .48, IATA said. 

In addition, the 2013 Western-built jet hull loss rate for only IATA members was .30, which outperformed the global average by 26.8 percent. That’s an improvement over the five-year average of .32.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370

"Safety is our highest priority,” said Tyler, noting that the aviation industry is united in its commitment to ensure continuous safety improvement. "Importantly, that commitment has made flying ever safer. Accidents, however rare, do happen."

That said, Tyler acknowledged that IATA was releasing the annual data as the world continues to focus on the search effort for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. “The airline industry, its stakeholders and regulators are in the beginning of the journey to unravel this mystery, understand the cause and find ways to ensure that it never happens again," he said.

He acknowledged that "it may be well be a long time before we know exactly what happened on that flight. But it is already clear we must never let another aircraft go missing in this way. And it is equally clear that governments must make better use of the passenger data that they mandate airlines to provide."

In the case of MH 370, Malaysia officials failed to check the Interpol list that provided details about stolen passports; several passengers on the ill-fated flight were traveling under stolen passports.

RELATED: Missing Malaysia Airlines Plane: Lack of Passport Checks Expose Security Flaw

The continual speculation by media about the accident's probable cause was also addressed by Tyler: "Speculation will not make flying any safer. We should not jump to any conclusions on probably cause before the investigation into MH370 closes."

However, he acknowledged aircraft tracking and passenger data collection and usage by governments are challenges. "In a world where our every move seems to be tracked, there is disbelief both that an aircraft could simply disappear and that the flight data and cockpit voice recorders are so difficult to recover," Tyler emphasized.

The investigation of the crash of Air France 447 into the Atlantic Ocean during a flight from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Paris several years ago brought some progress. "But that must be accelerated," Tyler said. "We cannot let another aircraft simply vanish." 

More Safety Report Detail

IATA told conference attendees that it will provide more information on the 2013 safety performance when it releases its 50th annual Safety Report on April 3; that report will have more data and analysis.

In general, though, over the five years 2009-2013, the industry has shown improvement in both accident rates and fatalities, although year-to-year comparisons may fluctuate. Here are some additional facts: 

  • More than 3 billion people flew safely on 36.4 million flights (29.5 million by jet, 6.9 million by turboprop) in 2013.
  • There were 81 accidents (all aircraft types, both eastern and western built), up from 75 in 2012, but below the five-year average of 86 per year.
  • There were 16 fatal accidents (all aircraft types) versus 15 in 2012 and the five-year average of 19.
  • Twenty percent of all accidents were fatal, unchanged from 2012. But that was below the five-year average of 22 percent.
  • There were 12 hull loss accidents involving western-built jets compared to six in 2012 and the five-year average of 13.
  • Six fatal hull loss accidents involved western-built jets, raised from three in 2012 and unchanged from the five-year average.
  • Passenger and crew fatalities in 2013 were 210, compared with 414 in 2012 and a five-year average of 517.

Safety Performance by Region

Regions that had improved safety performance from 2012 to 2013 were Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. North Asia and Europe’s safety performance was unchanged. Showing a declining safety performance year-over-year were Asia-Pacific, Commonwealth of Independent States, Middle East-North Africa and North America.

In terms of progress? Safety has definitely improved in Africa, IATA said with African airlines experienced only one western-built jet hull loss last year. "Airlines on the IOSA registry [airlines which have had their safety performance  audited by IATA standards] are performing almost seven times better than non-IOSA operators in the region,” said Tyler.

“But we must remember two things,” he stressed. First, Tyler said Africa’s overall rate is still many times worse than global levels, so there is plenty of work to do. "Second, we cannot take the recent improvement trend for granted," he stressed.

He said to make the gains in Africa a sustainable foundation on which to achieve world-class safety levels is going to require the continued determination and commitment of all stakeholders, including governments. IATA, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and others have united behind the Africa Strategic Improvement Action Plan aimed at achieving world-class safety levels by 2015 by addressing safety deficiencies and strengthening regulatory oversight capabilities.

A key focus for governments in the effort to achieve more effective safety oversight will be the implementation of ICAO’s safety-related standards and recommended practices (SARPS), according to the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program (USOAP). As of the end of 2013, only 11 African states had achieved 60 percent implementation of the SARPS.

Elsewhere across the globe in the Commonwealth of Independent States, IATA member airlines in the CIS experienced zero accidents in 2013, outpacing all regions. However, the region as a whole experienced a significant deterioration compared to 2012, the IATA press release noted.

IATA said it has encouraged regulators in the region's individual states to benefit from existing internationally-recognized audit programs, like IOSA, by utilizing them to enhance safety oversight systems already in place.

Accident Analysis

Runway excursions, in which an aircraft departs a runway during landing or takeoff, are the most common type of accident, accounting for 23 percent of all accidents over the past five years (2009-2013).

Yet, survivability of these accidents is high. Such accidents account for less than 8 percent of fatalities over the previous five years. Improving runway safety is a key focus of the industry’s strategy to reduce operational risk, IATA said.

While very few "loss of control in-flight" (LOC-I) accidents occur, they are almost always catastrophic, IATA stated. In fact, 95 percent of the LOC-I accidents over the past five years involved fatalities to passengers or crew.

There were eight LOC-I accidents in 2013, all of which involved fatalities, and over the period from 2009 through 2013, 10 percent of all accidents were categorized as LOC-I. These resulted in 1,546 of the 2,585 fatalities over this period.

Controlled-flight-into-terrain (CFIT) accidents also remain a concern for IATA, as there were six of these accidents in 2013. Most CFIT accidents occur in the approach and landing phase of flight and are often associated with non-precision approaches.

From 2009 through 2013, 52 percent of such accidents were known to involve the lack of a precision approach. 

Data Analysis to Drive Improvements

ATA said it's created the Global Aviation Data Management (GADM) program as a comprehensive safety data warehouse resource. This data includes analysis reports covering accidents, incidents, ground damage, maintenance and audits, plus data from more than 1.8 million flights in the last 15 months.

Up to 390 airlines are contributing to at least one GADM database. IATA said analysis of this information is being used to further identify industry safety issues and to drive and prioritize initiatives and actions to solve the identified issues.

"Safety is a team effort in which IATA, ICAO and other stakeholders are fully aligned," said Tyler. "Using data will help us identify potential areas of concern, long before they rise to the level of a threat to safety."

For more information, agents might check out this IATA Safety Fact Sheet at http://www.iata.org/pressroom/facts_figures/fact_sheets/Documents/safety-fact-sheet.pdf

Or, for more information on IATA, visit www.iata.org