Nearly three-quarters of all aviation accidents in Australia between 2001 and 2005 were attributed to operational causes, with the remainder being mechanical, according to a new safety review released by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau.

The Australian Aviation Safety in Review 2007 is the first such report produced by the ATSB and is part of the bureau's mission to enhance public awareness of aviation safety. During the period there were seven accidents involving high-capacity regular public transport aircraft in the country and 12 involving low-capacity regular public transport operations, one of which was the fatal crash of a Fairchild Metro at Lockhart River, Queensland, in which 15 people died.

Most accidents by far in Australia involve general aviation, says the ATSB, with accidents in the private/business category being most prevalent. In 2005, for example, there were 51 accidents in the private/business category, nine of which were fatal.

The proportion of rotary-wing accidents is relatively high compared with fixed-wing aircraft, says the ATSB, with nearly 33 accidents each year over the period - or nearly one-fifth of all accidents. The accident rate for helicopters is more than double that for fixed-wing aircraft and nearly triple the rate in 2005.

Accidents involving a collision were the most common operational-related occurrence, with 197 during the period, of which 30 were fatal. The most common occurrence was collision with terrain, accounting for 103 accidents. A reasonably high number of collisions - 30 - occurred when the aircraft was on the ground.

In 2005, 26 accidents involved collision aircraft control accounted for 21 accidents hard landing was involved in 16 five accidents were fuel-related five involved ground operations and two were wheels-up landings. Of the 749 accidents between 2001 and 2005, 197 were mechanical-related, with powerplant or propulsion system problems accounting for half. The next most common mechanical factor was a problem with the airframe, followed by aircraft systems, often electrical.

Australia's fatal accident and fatality rates are similar to those of Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA, says the ATSB. "Using North America and the UK as a benchmark of best-practice aviation safety, the findings demonstrate that Australia has a good safety record," it adds.

Source: Flight International