Sunday, December 28, 2014

Despite High-Profile Tragedies, Air Safety Remains Tight, Say Experts • 2014 Wasn’t an Outlier for Aviation-Related Fatalities, According to Data

The Wall Street Journal

Updated Dec. 28, 2014 2:30 p.m. ET

LONDON—The disappearance of an Indonesia AirAsia jetliner with 162 people on board caps a torrid year for the aviation industry involving a spate of high-profile crashes. Accident data indicates, though, that flying remains safe by historical standards.

AirAsia Flight QZ8501 lost contact with air traffic control Sunday on a flight to Singapore from Surabaya, Indonesia, as it was climbing to a higher altitude to avoid stormy weather, officials said. Contact with the Airbus Group NV A320 jet, which can seat 180 passengers, was lost at 7:24 a.m. local time—almost two hours after takeoff.

The disappearance follows a series of ill-fated flights this year, of which two belonged to Malaysia Airlines. In March, one of its Boeing Co. 777s went missing with 239 people on board en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, and the wreckage still hasn’t been located. And in July, another 777 belonging to the Malaysian carrier was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 aboard in the year’s deadliest air accident.

An Air Algérie flight also crashed in July while flying to Algeria from Burkina Faso. All 116 people on the plane died.

Despite these accidents and a series of others during the summer, the loss of life during 2014 before the disappearance of the AirAsia plane Sunday was still below the 10-year average of 676 fatalities, according to data from the Aviation Safety Network, an affiliate of the not-for-profit Flight Safety Foundation. Crashes this year had led to 526 fatalities before contact was lost with the AirAsia jetliner, the group said. The deaths from the shootdown over Ukraine aren’t counted because they are linked to a hostile act.

“It will probably come as a surprise to most people, but really it was a very safe year,” said Paul Hayes, director of safety at aviation consultancy Ascend.

The number of fatalities from plane crashes this year is a long way off the 1,074 people who were killed in 2005. The figures were much higher in the 1970s and 1980s, when far fewer people flew.

The International Air Transport Association, which represents more than 200 carriers, said this month that accident rates this year through September were below the five-year average, with 2.1 crashes per 1 million flights.

Accident rates this year “still continue the trend of increasing safety,” Mr. Hayes said. “It is very difficult to get over not only how safe airline flying has become but how much safer it is than even just a decade ago.”

The aircraft insurance industry has been hit hard this year, exacerbated by a series of attacks on airports, potentially leading to a rise in premiums. Attacks on airports in Tripoli, Kabul and Karachi have ratcheted up worry about the risk to aircraft sitting in war-torn areas.

Despite the overall improvement in aviation safety, experts are under pressure to reduce the number of aviation accidents as more people fly. Safety experts in the U.S. and Europe are establishing vast databases of flights to determine how flying can be made safer.

Experts will be looking for lessons from any findings that emerge from the disappearance of the AirAsia jetliner. France’s air accident investigation office, the BEA, on Sunday said it would dispatch two investigators to Jakarta along with two technical experts from Airbus to aid Indonesia’s probe.

The BEA could help analyze the plane’s so called “black boxes” if they are recovered. Those devices, which store cockpit conversations and system data, generally provide the best information of what went wrong on a flight.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said it would also assist the investigation, if asked. Indonesia has lead responsibility for any probe under international aviation rules.

- Original article can be found at:

No comments:

Post a Comment