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Mining aviation on its way to ‘fatality-free year’, data shows

written by Isabella Richards | September 6, 2021
Flight Safety Foundation’s BARS sees global reduction in fatal aircraft accidents (Flight Safety Foundation)

A contract aviation safety organisation has released new figures displaying the global onshore resource sector is on its way towards its “first fatality-free year”, despite higher demand.

Flight Safety Foundation’s Basic Aviation Risk Standard (BARS) program has been tracking aviation accidents in the mining industry since 2010, which has continued to trend downwards each year.

The BARS program is a process of implementing safety standards on aircraft operators, annual audits, aviation training and global data analysis of trends.

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The new data indicates that between 2010 and 2020, 82 fatal accidents have been recorded, causing a total of 263 deaths, however in 2021, there is yet to be one fatal accident reported.

BARS program director David Anderson said the downward trend showed there is a consistent global safety standard that the industry is garnering.

“Implementing a single standard reduces the audit burden on the operator, provides consistency and standardisation,” he said.

“The BARS Program has proven to be adaptive, resilient, results driven and now key to maintaining the downward trend in contract aviation accidents.”

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According to Anderson, a key element of the program’s success was gathering the data within the correct time frame, known as close-out rates (CoR).

“We know that 99.8 per cent of findings raised are addressed within the nominated time frame, which is a huge increase from the 60 per cent CoR when we first started,” he said.

The data collated includes all known accidents associated with the mining sector, including passenger operations, aerial mustering, helicopter sling loads, powerline construction and cargo.

2012 was the worst year for fatal accidents recorded, with BARS reporting 15 deaths and almost 40 accidents.

Melbourne-based Newcrest Mining senior aviation coordinator Mark Wheatley said BARS helped the company to create a better understanding of risk management.

“BARS also providers training programs that support the delivery of the audit program and provides personnel with greater safety assurance,” he added.

Anderson became the managing director in 2015 because he supported “systematic and program-driven” safety models, which is why he believes accidents are on a downward trend.

The Australian Defence Force, United Nations World Food Programme, and First Energy are among the companies that are part of the BARS membership.

While commercial airline travel demand plummeted during the pandemic and remains on the decline in Australia due to ongoing lockdowns, contracted operations have increased.

In some cases, contract aviation has kept commercial airlines afloat during the travel drought.

Brisbane-based carrier Alliance Airlines was able to turn around a $34 million profit after tax for the 2020-21 financial year due to strong contract and charter demand.

The airline touted its contract revenue increased 6 per cent in its mining and resource sectors while revenue elsewhere ultimately declined.

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