Airline safety record reverses

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Flight International online analysis: The recent spate of fatal accidents worldwide, culminating in the loss of a TANS Peru Boeing 737-200 on 23 August, ensures that 2005’s airline safety record will mark an unwelcome reversal of the downward trend in fatalities over the last three years.

But even this remarkable cluster will not yet reverse the longer-term trend which continues to show a relentless improvement. The US safety record in particular continues to be the envy of the world.

The current grouping of accidents followed a better than average first half of the year in which 222 people died, and began with the Air France Airbus A340 runway overrun at Toronto. It runs as follows:

2 August:   Air France Airbus A340, Toronto. 0 fatalities.

6 August:   Tuninter ATR 72, off Sicily. 16 fatalities.

14 August:  Helios Airways Boeing 737-300, Athens. 121 fatalities.

16 August:  West Caribbean Airways Boeing MD-82, Venezuela. 160 fatalities.

23 August:  TANS Peru Boeing 737-200, Peru. 41 fatalities (provisional figure).

Those casualties take the 2005 total fatalities figure to at least 559 – already worse than last year’s 466 with four months of the year left.

As the chart shows, the 2004 figure, however, was the lowest in ten years and substantially better than the next best performance – the 702 fatalities in 2003. That in turn was a huge improvement on the 1,022 in 2002.

accident chart - big

The all-important accident rate cannot be accurately calculated at this stage, but ICAO figures show a six-fold improvement in the rate over the 25 years ending in 2004. Airline hull losses were 27 and 28 respectively in the last two years and have now hit at least 21 this year.

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