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Pilot handling major cause of 2009 accidents IATA reveals

Pilot handling was a contributory factor in 30% of airline accidents globally in 2009, according to the International Air Transport Association analysis of accident rates for the period.

IATA has never delivered a verdict like this before, previously citing more all-embracing human factor descriptions such as “pilot error”, which includes judgement and procedures.

In highlighting pilot handling as a major accident cause, the association is expressing its concern about this increasing phenomenon. It is pressing industry to embrace its IATA Training and Qualification Initiative, which it describes as “a push for harmonising a competency-based approach to training real skills”, rather than just airline compliance with the minimum regulatory requirements for pilots to gain and maintain a pilot licence.

2009 global accident rates by region

IATA reports that the global serious accident rate for 2009, at 0.71 per million flights, was the second best in history, beaten only by the year 2006, when the rate was 0.65. The 2009 rate for IATA member carriers, at 0.62 serious accidents per million flights, was better than the global average, as for many years, but its own membership recorded their best-ever result in 2005.

These rates were derived from IATA’s analysis of 19 accidents involving Western-built jets compared with 22 in 2008, and 90 accidents involving all aircraft types compared with 109 in 2008. The number of fatal accidents, according to IATA, was 18 compared with 23 the previous year, and the respective numbers of resulting fatalities was 685 compared with 502.

IATA also highlights the considerable differences in the 2009 accident rates for world regions. Figures can vary considerably from year to year, but Africa consistently shows by far the worst rate.

Last year Africa’s figure was 9.94 serious accidents per million flights, but that was particularly bad even for that continent, which scored a rate of 2.12
serious accidents in 2008.

IATA notes that African carriers represent only 2% of global traffic but have 26% of all Western-built jet hull losses.