IATA says airline safety improving despite rise in fatalities in 2018

written by australianaviation.com.au | February 25, 2019
Airlines are expected to post a 10th decade of profitability in 2018. (Rob Finlayson)
Airlines are expected to post a 10th decade of profitability in 2018. (Rob Finlayson)

The world’s airlines suffered through 11 fatal accidents in 2018, resulting in the deaths of 523 passengers and crew, according to figures from International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The totals represent an increase from six fatal aircraft accidents and 19 fatalities in what was a record low year in 2017.

“2018 was not the extraordinary year that 2017 was,” IATA chief executive and director general Alexandre de Juniac said in a statement.

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“However, flying is safe, and the data tell us that it is getting safer.”

An infographic on the airlines' 2018 safety performance. (IATA)
An infographic on the airlines’ 2018 safety performance. (IATA)

In all, there were 62 accidents in 2017, up from 46 accidents in the prior year, the IATA figures showed.

Overall, about 4.3 billion travellers flew safely on 46.1 million flights in calendar 2018, with the industry body noting that the 2018 figures for accidents was down from the five-year average between 2013-2017.

The worst aviation accident of 2018 was the crash of a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 into the Java Sea shortly after it took off from Jakarta, Indonesia with 189 passengers and crew on board. There were no survivors.

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Investigators have located the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder and were continuing to determine the cause of the accident.

There was also a Cubana Boeing 737-200 that crashed near Havana Airport that killed 112 people, as well as an accident shortly after takeoff involving Russian carrier Saratov Airlines’ Antonov An-148-100B that left all 71 passengers and crew on board dead.

Four regions recorded no jet hull losses in 2018 – Africa, Europe, Middle East/North Africa and North Asia.
(IATA defines a hull loss as an accident in which the aircraft is destroyed or substantially damaged and is not subsequently repaired for whatever reason including a financial decision of the owner.)

The hull loss rate in 2018 for jet aircraft 0.19 per million departures, down from 0.29 in the prior year.

The improvement was more pronounced for turboprop aircraft, with the hull loss rate dropping to 0.60 per million departures in 2018, from 1.83 a year earlier.

de Juniac said IATA remained committed to the goal of having every flight takeoff and land safely.

“Flying continues to be the safest form of long distance travel the world has ever known,” de Juniac said.

“Based on the data, on average, a passenger could take a flight every day for 241 years before experiencing an accident with one fatality on board.”

IATA also noted there has been a rise in the number of in passengers and cabin crew injured from in-flight turbulence, which it described as an “increasing safety risk”.

As such, IATA has launched a new tool to help airlines better avoid turbulence called Turbulence Aware, which uses an algorithm that takes in existing sensor parameters from an aircraft’s onboard systems to calculate the intensity of any turbulence on a scale from zero representing smooth air to one, which indicates very severe turbulence.

Given the inputs to Turbulence Aware are already collected on most aircraft, no additional equipment is required. Rather, a software update to the onboard systems is what is needed to begin collecting the data.

IATA, which has about 290 member airlines that collectively represent about 82 per cent of global air traffic, said recently the first operational version of the platform was to be developed by the end of 2018, with operational trials to take place in 2019. The final product will be launched in early 2020.


VIDEO: A summary of the year in aviation safety in 2018 from the IATA YouTube channel.

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