A snapshot of global airline fatal accident figures for the first half of 2010 confirms that airline safety performance has levelled off at 2003 levels. This is significant because, until then, airline accident rates had declined steadily since airline flying began.

From January to June this year the airlines suffered nine fatal accidents in which 415 people died. This compares favourably with the first six months of 2009, for which the figures were respectively 13 and 499, but comparing the numbers for the same period each year over the last decade, the trend for the period is more or less flat.

With only nine fatal accidents in the first six months, 2010 so far shows the lowest figure for a decade. Looking behind the numbers, however, all the improvement stemmed from a drop in fatal accidents to non-passenger flights, but just as many as usual in the passenger category. The 20-year graph shows accident numbers, not rates, which would make the improvement over the whole period more apparent because traffic has grown considerably.

Airline fatal accidents and fatalities - first six

Non-passenger flights include freight, airline training, positioning/ferry and post-maintenance test flights. The reduction in fatal flights in the non-passenger category will be welcomed by the authorities - especially if sustained for the whole year - because this sector has always shown a much higher accident rate than passenger flights.

The most serious accidents in 2010 so far have been the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-800 crash into the sea off Beirut in January, and the Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A330 at Tripoli and Air India Express 737-800 fatal overrun at Mangalore in May.

A detailed analysis of airline safety for 2010 so far, plus a list of accidents and the associated circumstances, will be in our 3-9 August issue. This excludes the accident to the Polish air force Tupolev Tu-154 presidential flight from Warsaw to Smolensk.

Source: Flight International