EASA Records ‘Best Year Ever’ for Commercial Air Transport Safety

 - July 11, 2011, 9:00 AM
Latest data from EASA indicates that in 2010 European airlines had one of their safest years ever, with no fatal accidents in the air transport sector. (Photo: Airbus)

Last year was one of the best ever in terms of safe airline operations, according to the latest data from the European Aviation Safety Agency, which last week reported “one of the best years in aviation safety for EASA member states in commercial air transport history.”

For the first time ever, EASA recorded no fatal accidents in the air-transport category. Meanwhile, the number of nonfatal accidents, although higher than the year before, fell within the average for the decade, said the report. The agency recorded a 95-percent survivability rate of all accidents involving EASA member-state-operated aircraft in the decade 2001 to 2010.

Over the past decade, total accident rates per 10 million flights have consistently fallen for EASA member-state operators, while the rates for third-country (non-EASA) operators have plateaued, and last year returned to the level recorded in 2006. In fact, the number of fatal accidents for third-country-operated airplanes increased from 39 in 2009 to 47 in 2010.

More details emerge with the report’s consideration of type of operation, namely passenger transport, cargo and other categories of flight, such as general aviation. Although EASA statistics show that, worldwide, passenger air transport operations account for the highest number of fatal accidents, the proportion of accidents in flight categories such as general aviation “is significantly higher” than the proportion of aircraft conducting those operations. Meanwhile, for EASA-based operators, fatal accidents involving passenger air transport dropped from nine in 2001 to none in 2004–a year that saw two fatal cargo crashes–followed by three in 2005, two in 2006, three in 2007, one in 2008, one in 2009 and none last year.

The report also divided accidents into several operational categories, most notably abnormal runway contact (ARC), controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) and events involving ground handling (ramp). Here, the report showed mixed results, as the proportion of CFIT accidents fell from some 4 percent in 2001 to virtually zero last year, while ramp events rose from some 8 percent in 2001 to roughly 17 percent last year, and ARC dipped from close to 20 percent in 2001 to below 10 percent in 2004, but consistently rose again to some 23 percent in 2009, only to fall again to around 21 percent last year.

Over the past 10 years, the category LOC-I (loss of control in flight) accounted for the highest number of fatalities (10). Events assigned under LOC-I involve the momentary or total loss of control of the aircraft by the crew, possibly resulting from reduced aircraft performance or because the pilots flew the aircraft outside its control capabilities.