IATA Data Point to Turboprops as the Weak Link in 2022 Safety Performance

 - March 7, 2023, 6:46 AM

Data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) show that the commercial aviation industry had a mixed safety performance record in 2022 as traffic recovered from the Covid-19 pandemic. The industry suffered 39 accidents, an increase from 29 in 2021, as the number of flights increased 25 percent year-on-year to just over 32 million.

The all-accident rate, which includes substantial damage and hull loss accidents for jets and turboprops measured per one million flights, rose from 1.13 in 2021 to 1.21 in 2022, though that figure falls to 0.49 accidents per million sectors for IATA members and 0.70 for airlines that passed the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA). Conversely, the all-accident rate rises to 2.82 per million sectors for non-IOSA-certified airlines.

Currently, 409 operators are on the IOSA Registry, including 107 non-IATA members. Participation in IOSA, which IATA introduced 20 years ago, is a requirement for membership in the global airline trade body.

“With carriers on the IOSA registry having an aggregate safety record that is four times better than non-IOSA carriers, it is clearly continuing to make a difference,” commented IATA director-general Willie Walsh. The 2018-to- 2022 average accident rate of IOSA airlines versus non-IOSA airlines was more than twice as good: 0.88 vs. 2.19.

In 2022, 77 percent of commercial air transport accidents involved passenger flights.

Five accidents in 2022 resulted in fatalities, compared with seven in 2021. As a result, the fatal accident rate improved from 0.27 per million sectors in 2021 to 0.16 in 2022, which was also ahead of the five-year fatal accident rate of 0.20. Despite the reduction in the number of fatal accidents, the number of fatalities rose from 121 to 158. The majority of them (132 deaths) occurred on March 21, 2022, and involved an aircraft operated by China Eastern Yunnan Airlines, a subsidiary of China Eastern Airlines. China Eastern Yunnan Airlines is on the IOSA registry.

Four of the five fatal accidents worldwide with loss of life to passengers and crew involved turboprop aircraft. Although sectors flown by turboprops represented just 10.6 percent of the total, turboprops were involved in 36 percent of accidents, 80 percent of fatal accidents, and 16 percent of fatalities in 2022, according to the latest IATA Safety Report released on Tuesday.

Six regions showed improvement or no deterioration in the turboprop hull loss rate in 2022 when compared with the five-year average. The only regions to see increases compared with the five-year average were Latin America/Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa.

European and North Asia operators reported zero turboprop hull loss accidents since 2014 and 2015, respectively. “Both sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America saw increases in turboprop accidents last year. Introduction and adherence to global standards—including IOSA—are key to reversing this trend," said Walsh. "The priority for Africa continues to be the implementation of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) safety-related standards and recommended practices (SARPS)."

Africa also ranked as the region with the highest accident rate last year, with 8.70 accidents per million sectors, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean with 4.07 accidents per million sectors. North American and European operators had 0.74 and 0.84 accident rates in 2022, respectively. With just 0.56 accidents per million flights, Asia Pacific ranked as the region with the lowest accident rate last year.