BEIJING – The overall safety situation in the civil aviation industry has shown marked improvement in the last few years, thanks to interventions by organisations like the International Air Transport Association (Iata) and other stakeholders.
Last year, the number of accidents globally involving aircraft dropped to 2.4 incidents for every one-million departures from 2.6 incidents in 2010.
“These statistics include both Eastern- and Western-manufactured jet and turboprop aircraft, and the severity includes hull loss and substantial-damage accidents,” Iata senior VP for safety, operations and infrastructure Gunther Matschnigg said at a press briefing in Beijing last week.
He said the improvement in sub-Saharan Africa’s safety performance, by 61%, was the most substantial, followed by the Middle East and North Africa, at 25%. However, there was a worsening of about 20% in each of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean.
Focusing on Western-built jet hull losses only, Matschnigg said the accident rate for all aircraft for the first quarter of 2012 was 0.19 incidents for every one-million departures, with the rate for Iata-affiliated airlines being zero.
“As far as Western-built aircraft are concerned, there is a positive trend for North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, the CIS and North Asia – all these regions had had zero hull losses until April this year,” he said.
“Europe and Asia-Pacific, unfortunately, were worse than the 2011 rates.”
While Africa – along of other regions – had shown some improvement, it remained a cause for concern, with a safety record nine times worse than that of the rest of the world.
It was mostly non-Iata airlines, which were not subjected to the organisation’s Iata Operational Safety Audit (Iosa), whose aircraft were involved in accidents.
Africa’s poor air safety record prompted the convening of an Iata summit in Johannesburg last year, where an intervention plan was agreed on. This included supporting African governments in strengthening oversight programmes, dealing with the causes of runway excursions, the introduction of auditing for non-Iata member airlines, improving training and wider monitoring of flight data in Africa.
Matschnigg was at pains to explain that, despite the recent crash in Nigeria, which killed all the 100-plus people on board, there was a general improvement in civil aviation safety, with runway excursions, the major cause of accidents, declining by around 20% during the last few years.
“However, there is still a lot of work to be done in this area. Iata published and distributed the second edition of the Runway Excursion Risk Reduction Toolkit in May 2011,” he said, adding that the new edition included increased focus on the role of airports and air navigation service providers in preventing runway excursion-related accidents.
Other programmes Iata had embarked on to improve aviation safety included its training and qualification initiative, aimed at modernising pilot and maintenance training; the identification of ways to improve industry attractiveness; the creation of a fatigue risk management system for operators – which had now been translated into Russian and Chinese; data sharing; and the sharing of best practices.
The introduction of area navigation, which improved safety by providing a precise lateral and vertical flight path in areas of difficult terrain, had also assisted in making aviation much safer.
“There is also ongoing collaborative efforts between governments, airlines, airports, manufacturers and service providers – all these are continuously working to improve safety in the industry,” said Matschnigg.
* Martin Zhuwakinyu was in Beijing as a guest of South African Airways and Iata.