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Air accident rate at all-time low

The 2011 air accident rate was the lowest in aviation history, surpassing the previous mark set in 2010.

According to the latest data from IATA, last year’s global accident rate, measured in hull losses per million flights of Western-built jets, was 0.37 – the equivalent of one accident every 2.7 million flights. This represented a 39% improvement compared to 2010, when the accident rate was 0.61, or one accident for every 1.6 million flights. A hull loss is an accident in which the aircraft is destroyed or substantially damaged and not subsequently repaired by its owner.

2.8 billion people flew safely on 38 million flights in 2011
2.8 billion people flew safely on 38 million flights in 2011

“Safety is the air transport industry’s number one priority. It is also a team effort. The entire stakeholder community – airlines, airports, air navigation service providers and safety regulators – works together every day to make the skies safer based on global standards. As a result, flying is one of the safest things that a person could do. But, every accident is one too many, and each fatality is a human tragedy. The ultimate goal of zero accidents keeps everyone involved in aviation focused on building an ever safer industry,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General & CEO.

In 2011, 2.8 billion people flew safely on 38 million flights, 30 million by jet and eight million by turboprop. Eleven hull loss accidents involving Western-built jets occurred compared to 17 in 2010, while the total accident rate for all aircraft types dipped to 92 last year from 94 in 2010. There were 22 fatal accidents involving all types of aircraft last year compared to 23 in 2010, but just five involving Western-built jets, down from eight in 2010. Overall however, there were only 486 fatalities in air accidents last year compared to 786 in 2010.

Asia Pacific (0.25), Europe (0.0), North America (0.10) and North Asia (0.0) performed better than the global average of 0.37, while the Commonwealth of Independent States (1.06), Latin America & the Caribbean (1.28) and the Middle East & North Africa (2.02) were worse than the global average.

The rate for Africa improved significantly to 3.27 from 7.41 in 2010 but the region remained the worst performing region in the industry.

Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General & CEO
Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General & CEO

“The problems of Africa are complex and include both insufficient government oversight and a lack of infrastructure investment. It is quite clear from the industry’s performance that global standards like IOSA are an effective means to improve safety. We are eager to work with governments to make IOSA a part of their safety oversight programs,” said Tyler.

Runway excursions, in which an aircraft departs a runway during take-off or takeoff, were the most common type of accident in 2011 (18% of total). Despite industry growth, IATA noted that the absolute number of runway excursions decreased from 23 in 2009 to 20 in 2010 and 17 in 2011. Eighty eight percent of runway excursions occurred during landing. Unstable approaches – situations where the aircraft is too fast, above the glide slope, or touches down beyond the desired touchdown point – and contaminated runways were the most common contributing factors to runway excursions on landing.

Ground damage was another concern, accounting for 16% of accidents in 2011. This was up from 11% in 2010. These accidents include events such as damage resulting from ground handling operations and collisions during taxiing.

“Aviation’s good record is not the result of complacency. The strong performance in 2011 should not distract us from the need for continuous improvement to drive the accident rate even lower. An even safer future will be built on the foundation stones of global standards, cooperation between industry and government and information sharing,” said Tyler.

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