IATA Preliminary Data Reveal Airline Safety Improved in 2019

 - December 13, 2019, 9:51 AM

Preliminary data from the International Air Transport Association indicate that the commercial airline industry will demonstrate a fairly solid safety performance this year, after a dismal 2018 that saw 11 fatal accidents with 523 fatalities among passengers and crew. From January 1 through December 2, six fatal accidents resulted in the deaths of 227 passengers and crew and 10 fatalities on the ground. The figure compares favorably with an average of 8.2 fatal accidents and approximately 303 fatalities per year in the previous five-year period (2014-2018). In 2017, the industry also experienced six fatal accidents, though only with 19 fatalities, which set a record low.

From January 1 to June 15, a total of 20 accidents occurred worldwide, of which three resulted in jet hull losses and one turboprop hull loss. The three fatal accidents accounting for 201 onboard fatalities all involved jet aircraft. The first-half 2019 all-accident rate, which includes substantial damage and hull loss accidents for jets and turboprops measured per 1 million flights, stood at 0.91, though that figure falls to 0.68 accidents per million sectors for IATA members and rises to 1.19 for non-IATA members.

“The first half of 2019 has seen the overall accident rate decrease over the full year 2018,” IATA senior vice president of safety and flight operations Gilberto López Meyer said at the trade body’s annual global media days event in Geneva this week. Moreover, “there is a continued reduction in accidents when considering a rolling five-year average rate.” The industry-wide all-accident rate, including IATA and non-IATA members, averaged 1.58 per million sectors for 2014-2018.

Most regions experienced a decline when comparing the first half of 2019 with the full-year 2018, except for Sub-Saharan Africa and North America, which saw increases to 4.45 accidents per million flights from 3.78 and to 1.11 accidents from 0.96, respectively. All regions, except North America, saw a decline in the first half compared with the 2014-2018 average.

IATA Operational Safety Audit-registered airlines “consistently outperform non-IOSA airlines in every region” for the period between 2015 and the first half of 2019, noted López Meyer. The all-accident rate for IOSA-registered airlines runs more than two-times lower than that for non-IOSA-registered airlines—0.99 jet and turboprop accidents per million sectors versus 2.31—in the four-and-a-half-year time frame. The IOSA registry covers 436 airlines, of which 145 do not belong to IATA.

To further improve the IOSA program, IATA earlier this year introduced a new methodology to audit the effectiveness of an IOSA standard’s implementation. “[This] represents a first move from compliance-based auditing towards a maturity assessment of an operator’s safety practices, rather than only assessing conformity and documentation,” López Meyer explained.