Last year was the safest in history for the world's airlines according to the International Air Transport Association's director general Giovanni Bisignani. The 2006 industry hull loss rate was 0.65 accidents per million flights for Western-built jets, equivalent to one accident for every 1.5 million flights - a 14% improvement on the previous year.

Bisignani says IATA's member airlines performed significantly better than the global average, with a hull-loss rate of 0.48 accidents per million flights, or one accident for every 2 million flights. He says he wants to see the world average rate reduce rapidly, stating that "IATA's interim target is to reduce the industry [global average] rate to 0.49 accidents per million flights in 2008".

He adds: "The safety results for 2006 are impressivebut we must do even better. With demand for air travel increasing at 5-6% per year, the accident rate must decrease just to keep the actual number of accidents in check."

IATA safety stats 06

Last year was bad for the CIS, says the report. The CIS states suffered an accident rate 13 times the global average, with 8.6 Western-built hull losses per million flights - but it was an unusually bad year by the CIS's recent standards. Africa, which is consistently the least safe aviation region, had another poor year with 4.31 accidents per million flights.

IATA's report highlights the three most common contributory factors in accidents, with weather topping the list. Weather was a factor in 43% of accidents poor communications between pilots or between pilots and controllers featured in 38% and in 33% of accidents inadequate pilot training was deemed causal.

Bisignani also highlights the cargo sector's relatively poor safety performance: although the sector operates only 4% of all flights, it suffers 24% of the world's serious accidents.

Source: Flight International