Aviation Safety in 2021 GREAT!!!
RISK REDUCTION IN 2022 not rest on laurels
to 70> Expert recognized SMS data value for preventative actions
This retrospective analysis by the Dutch aviation consultancy firm , to 70>, provides interesting insights into 2021 . Its headline is this “years’ fatal accident rate is better than average over the last ten years.” Andrew Young, the author, then scrutinizes the lessons learned from the on-going COVID-19 crisis, citing with strong approbation the pandemic materials issued by EASA, ICAO and the ASRS report.
to 70> emphasizes the value of aviation’s SMS data driven regime for defining a prospective safety risk reduction agenda. Young’s quintessential quote reinforces the primacy of numbers used to assess risks:
"The value of occurrence reporting schemes, both within companies and at a governmental level, cannot be over emphasized. Whilst this article focuses on what has happened, it is the occurrence reporting schemes that are allowing precursors to more serious problems to be tackled before they threaten life and limb."
2021’s success might lead each of us to lose the extraordinary focus; we’ve nailed the aviation discipline. Comfort with the past is dangerous; one of SMS’s most important principles is striving for continuous improvement. There is every reason to strive for even greater attention. Assessment of the data should drive even more proactive reductions of risks.
2021 has been another very difficult year for civil aviation. The continuing COVID-crisis has resulted in the bankruptcy of over a dozen airlines this year. Many were regional airlines, but two flag-carriers were amongst the casualties; Air Namibia and Alitalia. The latter resulted in a start-up airline, ITA, that is about half the size, and together with Spain’s Volotea, is serving a limited domestic network this winter and a much reduced international network. Many airlines and airports are carrying loans or have taken on additional debt to support themselves. Airports and their suppliers have also seen a marked drop in flights, passengers and revenue. A number of airport bankruptcies have been noted too; Frankfurt Hahn Airport, for example.
Aside from the economics, a knock-on effect in terms of accidents has fortunately not been witnessed in this year’s set of accidents to commercial passenger flights.
A low fatal accident rate
As ever, the To70 civil aviation safety review examines accidents only to larger passenger aircraft used by most travellers. (See our criteria in the Note below.) We include all causes, whether technical failure, human error or unlawful interference.
- In 2021 there were 38 accidents, 4 of which were fatal, resulting in 81 fatalities.
- In 2020 there were 40 accidents, 5 of which were fatal, resulting in 299 fatalities.
- The fatal accident rate for large aeroplane in commercial air transport is18 fatal accidents per million flights, compared with 0.27 per million in 2020.
- It is the lowest fatal accident rate since 2017.
- That is a rate of one fatal accident every 5.3 million flights.
- This years’ fatal accident rate is better than average over the last ten years.
The fatal accidents to large passenger aircraft in 2021 were:
The first two accidents related to manoeuvring, or the lack thereof, after engine failure. The Aeroservice Let 410, a small turboprop aeroplane, undershot the runway and struck trees during an approach in poor visibility.
Issues related to COVID have not led to accidents, but there are still concerns
The aviation industry is not ignoring the issues arising from the COVID-19 crisis and, in Europe, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency has been supporting industry with material to help companies focus on a broad range of safety issues arising from the COVID-19 crisis. Industry bodies, including the International Air Transport Association and Airports Council International, to name just two, have also been supporting their members through the pandemic. At the highest level, ICAO’s Handbook for CAAs on the Management of Aviation Safety Risks related to COVID-19 (ICAO Doc 10144) is an important source of guidance for national aviation authorities.
Issues relating to refresher training following long periods of absence, working in a period of underload – i.e., not enough stimuli or motivation to perform optimally – and mental health issues are all factors that the industry is striving to tackle.
However, there is evidence in the aviation incident data to suggest that that unpreparedness / unfamiliarity following periods of inactivity is affecting flight safety. A number of examples have been submitted to the American system of voluntarily reporting that is run by NASA, Aviation Safety Reporting System. Whilst these incidents relate to the aviation system in the US, it is almost certain that similar issues exist in the rest of the world.
We wait to see what effect the continuing COVID-19 crisis will have on our lives and our travelling habits, and we hope that the efforts to minimise the new threats posed to civil aviation by that crisis are sufficiently suppressed by the initiatives being taken across the industry. Whatever else happens, the reporting, analysis and application of occurrence reporting remains central to our ability to help prevent smaller lapses in safety from ending up as accidents.
 The MACRO 2021 data is not as susceptible for projecting global safety remedial actions. The numbers aggregated there involve so many disparate carriers, a wide range of operational environments, fleets from the aging aircraft to the most recent models, maintenance practices from rudimentary to sophisticated, pilots with 1st rate training as well as not, different fatigue practices, etc.
 While the Near and Middle East shows no fatalities in the statistics this time, seven of the 18 fatal accidents happened in the vast expanses of Russia.
The states of the former Soviet Union accounted for the most regional victims this time with 43.5 percent, followed by the Asia-Pacific region (39.3 percent) and Africa (11.9), North America (3.0), and Latin America (1.8 ).
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