Airline fatal accident numbers climb in 2011

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The year 2011 saw a rise in the number of airline fatal accidents, reaching a total of 32 compared with 26 in 2010, and just above the annual average for the last decade, which is 31.

But there was a relatively low fatalities total last year. At 515, this is the second lowest global annual figure in the preceding decade, in which the yearly average is 751. These figures include airline operations of all types, including scheduled and charter, pure freight and positioning flights. The fatalities numbers include crew casualties, not only passengers.

The reason for the relatively high fatal accident figure and the contrastingly low number of casualties is the number of small regional aircraft involved, mostly turboprops.

There were nine jet fatal accidents among all the categories of operation, but two of these were freighters and two were regional-jet size, leaving only five that could reasonably be categorised as passenger big jets. All the latter were old machines: two Boeing 727s, a 737-200, a Tupolev Tu-154 and a Yakovlev Yak-42. The number of casualties per fatal accident was just below 14. The two worst accidents of the year involved both the 727s:  Iran Air Boeing 727-200 domestic flight that crashed in January near Orumiyeh killing 77 of the 105 people on board, and a 46y-old Hewa Bora 727-100 also suffered 77 casualties when it crashed in bad weather at Kisingani in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

A full analysis of global airline safety performance in 2011, and the current challenges facing carriers, will be published later this month on flightglobal.com and in the 17-23 January issue of Flight International magazine. This will include a list of all the fatal accidents and serious non-fatal incidents, complete with a synopsis of each event, compiled in association with Flightglobal's specialist partner Ascend.