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Aviation Safety Statistics
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Latest Published Statistical Summaries
Because of the volume and variable integrity of global aviation safety data, analysis of safety data usually involves setting boundaries and limitations to the data set. Therefore, any interpretation of these analyses needs to be mindful of the boundaries applied to the data. Examination of similar analyses, using differently bounded data sets, sometimes reveals some interesting issues. For example, statistics presented by Boeing cover accidents involving Western Built aircraft over 60,000 lb. Such analyses therefore cover the Boeing and Airbus product range, which is a useful way of examining the safety record of the aircraft in service with the world’s major airlines, but does not necessarily provide an insight into the safety performance of the wider aviation system. Inevitably perhaps, analysis of safety data, and the way that analysis is presented, is influenced by the issues of the day. It is therefore difficult to compare statistical presentations produced today with those produced 10 years ago, but that difference in presentation can again reveal changes in the way the public, regulators, and the industry view safety performance.
All of this means that when looking at statistics, it is important to know the boundaries applied to the data and consider what the statistics do not show as much as what they do show.
- Fatality - death consequent upon an aircraft accident is typically classified as such a death which occurs within 30 days of the accident.
- Serious Injury - injury consequent upon an aircraft accident or serious incident is typically classified as serious if it results in hospitalisation for more than 48 hours commencing within 7 days of the event.
Extent of Aircraft Damage
- Substantial Damage - usually taken as damage or structural failure which adversely affects the structural strength, performance ot flight characteristics of an aircraft and which would normally require major repair or replacement of the affected component(s).
Nature of Event The following classifications are typically employed:
- Hull Loss – An aircraft is totally destroyed or assessed to have been damaged beyond economic repair. Assessment as a hull loss is always affected by the age (measured in any or all of years-since-new, cycles flown or landings made) of the damaged aircraft and sometimes by the concern of the operator to avoid the 'public declaration of a hull loss.
- Total Loss/Constructive Total Loss - Statistical data which originates in the insurance market is traditionally a very reliable source of data. Insurers use the terms "Total Loss" and "Constructive Total Loss" which is not quite the same as Hull Loss.
- Major Accident – An accident in which any of the following conditions is met: The aircraft was destroyed; or there were multiple fatalities; or there was one fatality and the aircraft was substantially damaged.
- Fatal Accident - An accident that results in a fatal injury, where death was not due to natural causes or self inflicted injuries, or injuries inflicted by other passengers, and was not due to a malicious act such as terrorism.
- ICAO Regions are the most often used regional definition.
- There is a particular difficulty with the 'definition' of Europe which may include, amongst other options ECAC, EU, EASA Member States or JAA. Political and regulatory evolution in Europe means that these definitions have themselves appeared, disappeared or varied over time.
- For fixed wing aircraft, 60,000 lb /27, 000 kg is commonly used as a minimum aircraft weight for event data to be included in accident statistics for larger aircraft - those making up the majority of most airline jet fleets, whereas 12,500 lb / 5,700 kg is often used in statistics intended to cover the majority of multi crew commercial operations. Alternatively, some statistical presentations have used a 33,000 lb / 15, 000 kg boundary.
Domicile of Manufacturer
- Western/Eastern-built Aircraft - some statistics make this distinction or exclude the latter altogether because data for many operations of Eastern-built aircraft (those originating in the former USSR) have historically been unavailable or unreliable.
In global terms, the accident rate has been declining steadily ever since the 1950s. In 2000, the concern was that, even with that encouraging trend, the growth of the airline industry would result in an absolute increase in the number of fatal accidents occurring each year. Some categories of accident were proving to be a particular challenge. In the late 1990s, the Flight Safety Foundation’s campaign to reduce controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) accidents, which included their Approach and Landing Accident Reduction (ALAR) tool kit, appeared initially to have achieved some success. However, in 1999-2001 the CFIT rate started to rise again, causing concern in the flight safety world. Then, the widespread introduction of TAWS began to make a real impact on the number of CFIT accidents, and the decline in the accident rate resumed.
Improvements in overall safety, and the reduction in the accident rate seen in the period 2002-2007 can be attributed to safety enhancements made possible by digital technology such as FDM, ACAS, TAWS, etc but in recent years it appears that the accident rate has again levelled out.
For large commercial airliners, a small number of accidents account for the majority of fatalities each year.
Sources of Statistical Information
- ICAO 2013 Safety Review
- Annual Safety Review - EASA
- Boeing: Statistical Summary of Commercial Jet Airplane Accidents 1959-2012
- UK CAA: CAP776 "Global Fatal Accident Review 1997-2006
- UK CAA: CAP1036 "Global Fatal Accident Review 2002-2011
- "Down Time" - article by James Burin in the February 2012 edition of AeroSafety World.
- "CFIT's Unwelcome Return" - article by James Burin in the February 2013 edition of AeroSafety World.