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EASA: Commercial aviation fatalities worst for three years

Preliminary air transport safety analysis indicates that last year was the worst, in terms of commercial aviation fatalities, for three years.

Lion Air’s loss of a Boeing 737 Max in late October and the take-off crash of a Global Air 737-200 in Cuba accounted for over half of the 530 worldwide fatalities recorded by the European Aviation Safety Agency.

The figure contrasts sharply with the historically low level achieved in 2017 and was instead comparable to the 533 of 2015.

Eleven fatal accidents were taken into account by EASA’s analysis, a number in line with the totals in each of the last four years.

Seven of them involved jet transports while the other four aircraft were propeller-driven, including a Junkers Ju 52 which crashed during a Swiss tourism flight – the only accident involving an operator from EASA member states.

EASA describes the Ju 52 crash as a “unique event” compared with “traditional” airline operations, and points out that no EASA-based carrier was involved in a fatal commercial airline accident last year.

The agency says the incidents and accidents during 2018 are a “reminder that safety should not be taken for granted”, particularly given the encouraging improvement recorded in the previous year.

“We should never be complacent with safety and remain persistent in our efforts devoted to protecting passengers and citizens,” says EASA.

Three of last year’s accidents involved only a single fatality, including the only accident to occur in the USA – an in-flight engine failure on a 737-700. The loss of a Horizon Air Bombardier Q400 which was stolen from Seattle has not been counted.

Two accidents in the EASA list took place in Iran, and one in Russia. Three occurred in the Asia-Pacific region, two in Latin America and one in Africa.

EASA does not appear to have listed the Let L-410 accident which occurred in South Sudan in September, which resulted in 20 fatalities.

Among the serious accidents which did not result in fatalities were the destruction of an Aeromexico Embraer 190 at Durango in July and the overrun of a Utair 737-800 at Sochi in September.

EASA states that the number of fatalities last year remains “significantly below” levels recorded even in the 1990s and 2000s, attributing this partly to technological advances and the implementation of safety management systems.

But it adds that runway excursions, in-flight upset, and technical failures involving fire or pressurisation remain “key risk areas”.

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