The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has followed the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in cautioning that the industry should not take safety for granted after preliminary analysis showed a sharp increase in commercial aviation fatalities for 2018. Worldwide, 11 fatal accidents involving large airplanes last year resulted in 530 deaths, “setting us back to a level not experienced since 2015,” when 533 people died in commercial aircraft accidents, the Cologne, Germany-based agency said.
The 2018 figure marks a sharp deterioration on 2017, the safest year in commercial aviation history when nine fatal accidents caused just 67 deaths worldwide for commercial air transport. “We should never be complacent with safety and remain persistent in our efforts devoted to protecting passengers and citizens,” EASA commented.
The European safety body, however, pointed out that the number of fatalities in 2018 still ranked “significantly below” levels recorded in the 1990s and 2000s. “The technological advances in aviation and the industry’s efforts to introduce safety management systems help to maintain aviation as a very safe form of transport,” it noted.
Based on its analysis of accidents and serious incidents over the past five years, EASA identified aircraft upset, runway excursions, and technical faults relating to aircraft pressurization or fire as “key risk areas” or “potential accident outcomes.”
EASA considered 11 fatal accidents in its 2018 preliminary analysis. Three accidents in the EASA review took place in the Asia-Pacific region, two in Iran, and two in Latin America, and one each in Russia, in Africa, in the U.S., and in Europe. The Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 that crashed into the Java Sea just after takeoff from the Indonesian capital Jakarta on October 29 accounted for the most fatalities: 189. Three of last year’s fatal accidents in the EASA safety review involved only a single fatality.
EASA said no fatal accidents in commercial airline operations in 2018 involved an operator from EASA member states–the EU’s 28 member countries plus Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. It described the August 4 Junkers Ju-52 accident that claimed 20 lives in elevated terrain in the Swiss Alps as a “unique event.”
“This accident involved a historic aircraft built in 1939; although the aircraft was undertaking a commercial flight, it was a unique event compared with traditional airline operations,” the safety body reasoned.