Airlines have exhausted the advances offered by safety management strategies developed during the 1990s and will not improve their safety performance without radical new ideas. This is the conclusion of an exclusive Flight International review of global airline safety for the decade from 2000 through 2009.
A step-change for the better in airline safety performance took place around the year 2000, but the fruits of those changes have now been reaped and while safety today is at an all-time high, improvement stopped six years ago. As our review details, that plateau marked a departure from a century of aviation safety, which had until recent years improved steadily since the Wright brothers.
The review demonstrates that many of the serious accidents that happened in 2009 were preventable and points a finger of blame at the legacy of years of pilots flying highly automated aircraft. Although modern flightdecks make a positive contribution to safety performance, the report argues, pilots are now out of practice at manual flying using raw flight and navigational data when the sophisticated systems fail, as they sometimes do, or when pilots have to revert to visual flying in marginal conditions.