The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released its annual Safety Report today, showing that 2006 was the safest year on record.
“The safety results for 2006 are impressive. 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. And the interim target is to reduce the industry rate to 0.49 accidents per million flights in 2008—a 25% improvement,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
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 on 2005. IATA’s member airlines performed significantly better than the global average with a hull-loss rate of 0.48 accidents per million flights, or one accident for every two million flights.
There were 77 accidents in 2006, compared to 111 in 2005. Of these 77 accidents, 46 involved jet aircraft and 31 involved turbo-props.
Regional Results: The Safety Report shows that not all regions of the world saw the same level of safety. For example, Russia and other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) had the highest accident rate of all the regions in 2006, with 8.6 Western-built hull losses per million flights—13 times the global average. IATA is actively working with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), States and operators to improve the situation.
In Africa, improvements have been made to enhance safety. However, the accident rate remains the second highest in the world at 4.31 accidents per million flights. IATA is working with relevant organisations to further reduce it with a focus on upgrading onboard systems and navigation databases.
IOSA: “Aviation must be safer—everywhere—including Russia and Africa. Regional safety begins with global standards that are maintained by all. That is why the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) is a condition of IATA membership,” said Bisignani. IOSA is the airline industry’s first globally accepted audit programme using internationally harmonised standards. All IATA airlines must complete an audit by the end of 2007 and close all findings by the end of 2008 to maintain membership. Currently 144 airlines are on the IOSA registry, including 121 IATA members.
Integrated Airline Management Systems: An integrated approach to safety is also critical. “The commitment to safety starts with the CEO. But it must be integrated systematically throughout the airline to be effective,” said Bisignani. Following on the ICAO requirements for Safety Management Systems, IATA has incorporated Integrated Airline Management Systems (Integrated AMS) into IOSA. Based on IOSA standards, Integrated AMS provides guidance and best practices on safety, security, quality and risk management as well as supplier management systems. IATA today launched an interactive tool to help airlines implement Integrated AMS.
Adverse Weather: 43% of accidents occurred during operations in adverse weather. 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: 38% of accidents involved flight crew communication issues, either between pilots or between pilots and air traffic controllers. IATA is implementing programmes, such as the English Language Solution, to help pilots and air traffic controllers enhance their language skills and adopt standard phraseology to prevent communication breakdowns.
Flight Crew Training: 33% of accidents involved flight crew training issues. Spreading best practice in training is the key to mitigating this issue and IOSA includes detailed training standards for operational personnel.
Data is critical to addressing safety issues before they result in accidents. Although not a significant cause of accidents today, IATA will focus efforts on three main areas of potential concern:
Runway safety: Runway safety-related issues resulted in several serious incidents in 2006, including the only fatal passenger accident to occur in North America. Human error, increase in traffic and miscommunication played contributing roles in most of the runway-related incidents (primarily runway incursions or runway misidentification). IATA is working with ATS providers, airports and airlines to gather and analyse data on issues that are a concern to the airlines, including runway incursion prevention at specific airports.
Ground damage: Overall, 10% of the year’s accidents took place on the ground, injuring people and costing US$4 billion in damaged equipment—a figure that balloons to US$11 billion if the cost of medical and related expenses is included. To counter the serious problem of ground damage, the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO) is being launched. The development of standards is underway and the first audits are scheduled for 2008.
Cargo: Approximately 76% of all accidents involved passenger aircraft, compared to 24% for cargo aircraft. This is disproportionate with cargo’s 4% of global operations. To help address this issue, standards for cargo operators have been incorporated into the IOSA programme.