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SKYbrary Safety Review 2012

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Article Information
Category: Safety Management Safety Management
Content source: SKYbrary About SKYbrary

Data supplied by:FG Analytics logo

A Good Year for Aviation Safety?

2012 was another good year for safety with the fatal accident rate jumping from about one per 1.4 million flights overall in 2011 to one per 2.3 million flights in 2012. This may prove to be a statistical anomaly but the Airline fatal accident rates have been steadily improving and, even without 2012, overall, on average, operations are probably now about twice as safe as they were during the first half of the 1990s when the fatal accident rate was about one per 700,000 flights.

Flights (Millions) per Fatal Accident (Excludes Acts of Violence) 2012. - Source: Flight Global

There are many reasons for this steady improvement in safety: the adoption of rigorous Safety Management Systems, technological developments such as Airborne Collision Avoidance Systems (ACAS), Terrain Avoidance and Warning Systems (TAWS), and Flight Data Monitoring (FDM), more effective regulation both nationally and internationally, and improved understanding of Human Performance.

Fatal Accidents

The number of fatal accidents during the year decreased very markedly, going from 25 in 2011 to just 16 in 2012. The exceptionally good result for 2012 has reduced the annual average for the last five years, to 24.0. The annual average for the period 2000 – 2009 was 27.3 while the 1990s average was 37.9. The annual averages for the 1980s and 1970s were 33.1 and 40.0 respectively.

Annual Fatal Accidents (Excludes Acts of Violence) 2012. (jet or turboprop aircraft with 14 seats or more or cargo equivalent) Source: Flight Global

Most of the accidents in 2012 are still the subject of on-going investigation but a significant number appear to have involved Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) (CFIT) or Runway Excursion. The Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) says that CFIT and Loss of Control accidents continue to account for the majority of accidents and cause the majority of fatalities in commercial aviation.


Although, as noted, there was a marked reduction in the number of fatal accidents in 2012, two accidents with a high death toll during the year, the Bhoja Air Boeing 737 in April, which killed 127 passengers and crew and the DANA Air MD80 in June, which killed 153 passengers and crew plus another 10 people on the ground, meant that the drop in fatalities was not as great as might otherwise have been expected. A total of 419 passengers and crew were killed in 2012, about a 19% reduction on the 499 killed in 2011.

The annual average for the last five years was 605 and the average for the period 2000 – 2009 was 792. The annual average for the 1990s was 1,135.

To put these improvements in perspective, although 7,923 passengers and crew were killed in airline accidents during the last decade this was an improvement of 3,352 over the 1990s which saw 11,275 airline passenger and crew deaths. This means that, on average, there were about 335 fewer passengers and crew killed each year in the last decade than during the 1990s.

Annual Passenger and Crew Fatalities (Excludes Acts of Violence). (jet or turboprop aircraft with 14 seats or more or cargo equivalent) - Source: Flight Global

Regional Variation

The number of accidents occurring in Africa suggests that, given the relatively small number of flights, the accident rate continues to be higher than elsewhere in the world. A cluster of accidents occurred in the Great Lakes region which is a challenging aviation environment.

Most fatal accidents involving business jets occurred in North America or Europe, which is no surprise since that is where most of these types of aircraft operate. According to the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF), there has been an improvement in the business jet accident rate over the 8 year period to 2012.

Location of Worldwide Major Accidents 2012 - based on data published by FSF Aerosafety World, February 2013. Original source of data is Flight Global/Ascend.


The data used in the preparation of this safety review was supplied by Flight Global

Further Reading

  • "CFIT's Unwelcome Return" - James Burin, AeroSafety World, p18-21, February 2013.