If you are the type that frets over the odds of getting to your destination alive every time you board a flight, IATA’s 2019 safety report might be cause for comfort. The odds are in your favour because you would need to board a flight everyday’ for 535 years before you could get involved in an accident in which at least one person dies. On the other extreme, it would require you to travel daily for 29,586 years before you become a statistic in an accident in which everybody on board dies.
Those are the conclusions from IATA’s 2019 Safety Report, a year in which the number of people dying in airline accidents fell by more than half compared to 2018. That was the lowest level if fatalities in five years according to the report that was released on March 6.
The airlines lobby says some 4.54 billion people safely traveled on 46.8 billion flights during 2019. However, the year saw a total of 240 deaths from eight fatal accidents. These involved four jet aircraft and four turboprop aircraft with sixty-five percent of the fatalities (157 deaths) coming from a single accident – Ethiopian 302, a Boeing 737Max-8 that crashed shortly after takeoff from Addis for Nairobi on March 10, 2019.
Nevertheless, IATA says the year registered improvements across all major safety performance indicators compared to 2018 and to the five-year average of the 2014-2018 period. The all accident rate shrank from 1.36 per million flights or one accident for every 733,000 flights in 2018 to 1.13 accidents for a million flights in 2019. Last year’s rate translates into one accident for every 884,000 flights. It also shows a sharp improvement when compared with the five year average of 1.56 accidents per million flights or an accident every 640,000 flights.
The highest number of fatalities resulted from loss of control of the aircraft during flight and hard landings. Fatality risk or the odds of a passenger or crew member getting involved in an accident with no survivors was 0.09 in a million flights, during 2019. According to IATA, that means that on average, a person would have to travel by air every day for 535 years before experiencing an accident with at least one fatality. Alternatively, one would have to travel every day for 29,586 years to experience an accident in which all on board die
The year saw a total of 53 accidents but only eight of them involved fatalities. That was an improvement from 62 accidents in 2018 and a five year average of 63.2 accidents. Eleven fatal accidents with 523 deaths were registered in 2018. The five year average to 2018 rounds off at 8.2 fatal accidents and 303.4 fatalities per year.
“The release of the 2019 Safety Report is a reminder that even as aviation faces its deepest crisis, we are committed to making aviation even safer. Based on the 2019 fatality risk, on average, a passenger could take a flight every day for 535 years before experiencing an accident with one fatality on board. But we know that one accident is one too many. Every fatality is a tragedy and it is vital that we learn the correct lessons to make aviation even safer,” IATA Director General and chief executive Alexandre de Juniac, said in comments on the safety report.
Measured by the number of jets destroyed or written off after an accident, five regions of the world improved in 2019 compared to 2018. Measured by the number of aircraft lost per million departures, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, did not lose any aircraft during the year. North America improved from a five-year average of 0.44 hull losses per million flights to 0.09 in 2019 while Africa’s rate worsened from a five year average of 1.01 to 1.39 losses in 2019. The Common Wealth of Independent States registered the sharpest deterioration from a five-year average of 1.08 to 2.21 hull losses per million flights in 2019. Globally, the rate improved to 0.15 from a five-year average of 0.24.
Travelling on turboprop aircraft became safer in Africa during the year with the accident rate per million flights falling three-fold from a five-year average of 5.20 to 1.29. Accidents involving turboprop aircraft represented 41.5percent of all accidents in 2019 and half of fatal accidents IATA says.
In continuing vindication of its operational safety programme, IATA notes that the all accident rate for the 439 airlines on the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) registry was nearly two times better than that of non-IOSA airlines. Of that number, 300 are IATA members while 139 are not.