NZALPA Senior Technical Officer David Reynolds looks back at commercial aviation safety in 2018.
Several high-profile accidents during 2018 contributed to a worldwide annual toll of 556 fatalities from 15 fatal accidents.
More than half of last year’s commercial aviation fatalities stemmed from the October loss of the Lion Air B737-8 MAX in the Java Sea, killing 189 people and the May crash of Global Air 972 a B737-200 in Cuba, which resulted in the loss of 112 of those onboard.
There are information sources readily available online from safety regulators such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA); the aviation press in the form of Flight International and AvWeek, as well as websites such as ASN, the Netherlands-based Aviation Safety Network - all of whom paint pretty much the same picture of 2018.
Looking at accidents involving passenger and cargo flights by civil aircraft carrying 14 or more passengers toll-wise, 2018 fell below the five-year average of 14 accidents and 480 fatalities. This is significantly worse than 2017, when 10 fatal accidents resulted in 44 lives being lost. However, 2017 was the first year since 1946 that the fatal accident toll fell below 100.
Despite what is hopefully a ‘blip’ in 2018, overall safety performance is still trending in the right direction.
The CEO of ASN, Harro Ranter, believes that levels of safety have increased significantly: “If the accident rate had remained the same as 10 years ago, there would have been 39 fatal accidents last year. At the accident rate of the year 2000, there would have been even 64 fatal accidents. This shows the enormous progress in terms of safety in the past two decades.”
Also during the last year, the first fatal airline accident involving a US passenger carrier since 2009 occurred, when the fuselage of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 was punctured by debris liberated from an engine failure, killing one passenger.
EASA by comparison reported 11 fatal accidents involving commercial airliners in 2018, resulting in 530 deaths “setting us back to a level not experienced since 2015”. There was just one high profile fatal accident involving the commercial airline operations of a member state in 2018 – the loss of a vintage 1939 Junkers Ju52 which crashed in the Swiss Alps during August, with the loss of 20 people.
Lastly, wise words on global air safety performance and the events of the last year from EASA: “2018 is a reminder that safety should not be taken for granted”. Also “we should never be complacent with safety and remain persistent in our efforts devoted to protecting passengers and citizens.”
Let’s hope that this message is one that is not lost on the government, regulator, airlines and airports here in New Zealand.
Read more on safety performance:
HERE at Aviation Safety Network,
HERE at EASA,
and HERE at Flight Global.
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