Last year saw the lowest airline accident rate in history, with just one Western-built hull loss accident per 1.6 million flights, according to data from the International Air Transport Association.
IATA has also identified a clear disparity in safety performance between airlines that carry out safety audits and those that do not.
After four years of industry preparation for the full introduction of the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), 2009 was the first year in which successful completion of an IOSA and all the associated follow-up procedure became a condition of IATA membership.
From 2009 to 2010 there was a dramatic improvement in IATA member airlines' performance as measured by the accident rate: the 234 IATA member carriers improved their average Western-built jet hull loss rate from 0.62 losses per million flights in 2009 to 0.25 in 2010. That also represents a considerable advance on the membership's previous best rate achieved in 2005 (see graph).
Meanwhile, the world average Western-built jet hull loss rate for 2010 also reached a best-ever figure of 0.61 losses per million flights. Some 120 non-IATA carriers have also elected to undergo an IOSA, and some countries - such as Nigeria - have elected to make the issue or renewal of an operator's certificate conditional on the airline passing an IOSA.
There is still a considerable disparity between safety performance in different world regions (see global map), however, with North America best at a rate of 0.1 hull losses per million flights, and Africa worst at 7.41. Africa's 2010 performance did improve from a rate of 9.94 the previous year.
IATA's director general Giovanni Bisignani says: "Flying must become equally safe in all parts of the world. An accident rate in Africa that is over 12 times the global average is not acceptable. Improvements can happen. IATA's African carriers performed significantly better than non-IATA airlines in the region. I encourage all governments in the region to make use of the IOSA tool to boost the region's performance."
Last year, says IATA, the accident rate of IOSA carriers in Africa for all aircraft types was more than 50% better than non-IOSA airlines.