Turbulence, Runway Incursions Headline Last Year’s Accidents

 - March 15, 2023, 9:19 AM
A Republic Airways Embraer 175 nearly taxied across an active runway at Washington Reagan National Airport on March 7 just as a United Airlines received clearance for takeoff. (Photo: Ken Iwelumo (GFDL 1.2 or GFDL 1.2 ), via Wikimedia Commons)

Turbulence, runway excursions, and ground damage accounted for the majority of accident types among airliners operating in passenger and cargo service in 2022, according to Flight Safety Foundation’s 2022 Safety Report, released Wednesday.  

Last year, jet and turboprop aircraft certified to carry at least 14 passengers were involved in 115 accidents worldwide. Of those, 16 proved fatal and resulted in 233 deaths among passengers and crew and four people on the ground, said the report.

Turbulence proved the most common accident type in 2022, accounting for 22 accidents, according to the foundation’s Aviation Safety Network (ASN) database. Since 2017, the industry has seen 104 turbulence-related accidents around the world.

“The number of turbulence-related accidents is likely just a small fraction of the turbulence events that operators experience during any given year,” said FSF president and CEO Hassan Shahidi. “As we note in the report’s call to action, passengers need to recognize the importance of adhering to crew instructions to fasten their seat belts, and the industry needs to continue to improve its ability to detect turbulence and to share information about areas of turbulence.”

The report also showed 16 runway excursions and 14 cases of ground damage last year, statistics that prompted Shahidi to stress the importance of vigilance on runways, taxiways, and ramp areas. In January, the FSF and its international partners began work on the Global Action Plan for the Prevention of Runway Incursions, which they expect to complete later this year.

Several recent reports of close calls at U.S. airports have raised public consciousness of the issue, leading the FAA to hold a so-called safety summit on Wednesday. The summit comes just a week after the most recent of the incidents in question, when on March 7 a Republic Airways Embraer E175 accidentally crossed a runway on which air traffic control had cleared a United Airlines Airbus A319 for takeoff at Washington Reagan National Airport.

The summit, called by Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolan on February 14, will, according to his memo, examine which accident mitigation measures appear ineffective and ask the Commercial Aviation Safety Team to mine safety data to look for other incidents that resemble the most recently reported cases.