(Please note, this matter is not currently being litigated in Australia)In January 2014 we reported that 2013 had been a record low year in terms of airline fatalities. The events of the past week, and indeed the last 48 hours, have shown how quickly such trends can seem to make an about face. However, trite as it may seem to say at a time like this, aviation is still safe.
Aviation Safety Network statistics for 2013 showed that there were 265 fatalities in worldwide accidents against a ten year average of 720 fatalities per year. The worst crashes of 2013 involved a Tatarstan Airlines Boeing 737 which crashed killing 50 in Russia, and a Lao Airlines ATR72 which crashed killing 49 in Laos.
More people have died this week in air disasters than in those two crashes combined. For 2014, the total, presuming all have been lost in both Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 and Air Algierie flight AH5017, brings the year’s fatalities from air disasters to 700 passengers and crew.
While the trend is still decreasing this puts the level of air crash and related deaths around the level of the ten year average of 720 fatalities per year. Unless several more disasters occur in 2014 then the data is not substantially different to the “average”. The difference is that the tragedies of 2014 have been the most visible or public failings of aviation safety, and the most baffling in aviation history.
As Shine Lawyers Aviation Department noted in its submission to the Federal Government Aviation Safety Regulation Review in January 2014:
as air traffic increases within, and into and out of Australia, the (thankfully relatively low) risks inherent in air travel multiply. Air travel has never been safer largely through the international community’s recognition of the need to proactively manage safety risks (refer to Annex 19 Chicago Convention), and ever-increasing aviation technology, automation, and human factors awareness.This still holds true, and it is important for the travelling public to know that, even though the last week’s and the last months’ news in terms of aviation accidents and disasters has not been reassuring, there is no indication that aviation is anything other than the “safe” mode of transport it has been since aviation joined the jet age.
The Australian Road Deaths Database provides a sobering reminder of where the careful attention of transport regulators remains necessary to enhance safety – the number of Australian (only) fatalities caused on the roads to 30 June 2014 is already 579.
 See, for example, the latest recommendations of the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) following release of the final report on “Operational use of flight path management systems”, published 5 September 2013, available here, last accessed 31 January 2014.
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: July 24, 2014.