ATSB releases study on aviation fatalities over past 10 years

The ATSB says 28 aircraft were involved in fatal accidents in 2015 and a further 28 in an accident resulting in serious injuries. (ATSB)
The ATSB says 28 aircraft were involved in fatal accidents in 2015 and a further 28 in an accident resulting in serious injuries. (ATSB)

There were 31 aviation-related fatalities in Australia in 2015, with the bulk of those deaths occurring in the general and recreational aviation sectors, new figures show.

The statistics are outlined in a report from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) published on Wednesday covering aviation occurrence statistics between 2006 and 2015.

Recreational aviation recorded 18 fatalities from 76 incidents in 2015, while general aviation had 12 fatalities from 130 incidents, the report said.

Meanwhile, there was one death in commercial air transport from nine incidents.

“In 2015, Australia had 31 fatalities and 32 serious injuries – 28 aircraft were involved in fatal accidents and a further 28 in an accident resulting in serious injuries,” the ATSB report said.

“There was a total of 227 aircraft involved in accidents, and 185 involved in serious incidents (indicating an accident nearly occurred).”

ATSB chief commissioner Greg Hood said commercial air transport had the lowest number of accidents in the 10-year study period in 2015.

However, Hood expressed concern that in 2014, which was most recent year flying hours data was available, the flying training accident rate per million hours flown was more than double that of any year in the previous eight.

“The increase in accident rates involving flying training is an emerging safety concern – we’ll continue to keep a close eye on this sector to get a better understanding of the safety issues involved,” Hood said in a statement.

A graph showing the accident rate for VH- aircraft in flying training. (ATSB)
A graph showing the accident rate for VH- aircraft in flying training. (ATSB)

Looking at the longer term figures, the ATSB report found that 17 of the 19 fatalities in commercial air transport in the 2006-2015 time period involved aircraft conducting charter operations.

Further, the ATSB said: “Growth in recreational (non-VH) flying and improving awareness of reporting requirements, led to more than a tenfold increase in the number of recreational safety incidents reported to the ATSB between 2006-2015.”

The ATSB report noted the number of accidents and incidents involving remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs), commonly known as drones, was on the rise, with 12 accidents, four serious incidents and four incidents involving RPAs recorded in 2015.

“This is a significant increase compared to any other year in the previous 10 years and reflects the increasing prevalence of these aircraft,” the ATSB report said. The figures do not include incidents where pilots of conventional aircraft have reported encountering an unidentified RPA/model aircraft.

The report said most of the incidents involving RPAs involved collision with terrain, often caused by mechanical/electrical failure or radio interference.

Examples of RPA incidents detailed in the report included a 3kg DJI S900 falling out of the sky and landing on a parked car, while an Aeronavics SkyJib 8, which has a maximum takeoff weight of 16kg, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the 2015 Cricket World Cup final fell to the ground after the the crew operating the RPA lost control of the aircraft.

The ATSB report said the number of occurrences involving RPAs had increased from 14 occurrences in the eight-year period between 2006 and 2013 to 37 over the two years covering 2014 and 2015.

“Given the significant growth in the use of remotely piloted aircraft, it is likely that the number of incidents and accidents will continue to increase in the short term,” Hood said.

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