Wednesday, April 18, 2007

IATA: 2006 safest year on record -- with exceptions

IATAThe International Air Transport Association (IATA) released its annual Safety Report this week, declaring that 2006 was the safest year on record. However not all regions of the world were equally safe. IATA cited Russia and Africa as the two regions in need of significant improvement.

The IATA Safety Report indicates that the 2006 industry hull loss rate was 0.65 accidents per million flights for Western-built jets, which is equivalent to one accident for every 1.5 million flights -— a 14% improvement over 2005. There were 77 accidents in 2006, compared to 111 in 2005. Of these 77 accidents, 46 involved jet aircraft and 31 involved turbo-props.

Russia and other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) had the highest accident rate of all the regions in 2006. In that region, there were 8.6 Western-built hull losses per million flights -- 13 times the global average. In Africa, there were 4.31 accidents per million flights, the second highest in the world.

Globally, 43% of accidents occurred during operations in adverse weather. IATA says:
Training is a key issue, particularly with respect to the decision to abort landing in bad weather conditions. IATA is working to improve flight crew standards with enhanced training. This focuses on the process leading to the decision to "go-around" (abort landing) as well as the proper execution of the "go-around" once the decision has been taken.
Communication was another important factor contributing to accidents. IATA reports that 38% of accidents involved flight crew communication issues, either between pilots or between pilots and air traffic controllers.

Another contributing factor cited by IATA was flight crew training. Training issues of some kind were involved in 33% of accidents.

Going forward, IATA intends to focus on three other issues as well: 1) Runway safety issues, such as runway incursions or runway misidentification; 2) Ground damage, noting that 10% of accidents in 2006 happened on the ground; and 3) Cargo operations. Approximately 76% of all accidents involved passenger aircraft, compared to 24% for cargo aircraft. IATA notes that this is disproportionate with cargo's 4% of global operations.

"Air transport remains the safest form of travel. But we must do even better. With demand for air travel increasing at 5-6% per year, the accident rate must decrease just to keep the actual number of accidents in check. The goal will always be zero accidents," said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO.