Fatal Aires Airline 737 Crash Renews Safety Focus on Latin America

 - August 29, 2010, 6:59 AM

Aviation safety is once again under scrutiny in Latin America after the fatal crash of Aires Airlines’ Boeing 737-700 on San Andrés Island on August 17. The accident resulted in one fatality and more than 100 injuries among the 127 passengers and crew when the Colombian airliner crashed upon landing during severe weather. Thunderstorms were active in the area and the flight was reportedly hit by lightning just before landing.

The U.S. is assisting the Colombian authorities with the investigation, and has dispatched a team from the NTSB. The aircraft’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders have been removed for analysis by the accident investigating team. Aires underwent a safety audit in July by local authorities but has never received any international safety audit.

By coincidence, the FAA participated with Latin American and Caribbean airline association ALTA this month in launching a joint safety effort as an effort to improve the region’s safety record. This initiative was spurred by two accidents in 2008 that resulted in hull losses, raising the region’s loss rate to 2.55 hull losses per one million sectors compared with the world average of 0.81. The first two quarters of this year have witnessed 1.98 losses per million sectors. ALTA’s goal is to match North America’s safety performance record by 2014, and the association will target unstabilized approaches and runway excursions, which have caused the majority of accidents in the region.