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Aviation safety 2003 - 2012: Report released by ATSB 30 October 2013

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) today released a statistical report on safety occurrences (ie, accidents, and incidents) for the period 2003 to 2012.

In presenting the figures, the ATSB reminded readers that in aviation, accidents, incidents and injuries “happen more often than is widely believed”. The publication of the report is a timely reminder for aviation operators to review the investigation reports of the ATSB and other major official investigative bodies for reports in relation to aircraft and operations they routinely deal with.

The ATSB summarised the 2012 results saying there were 107 accidents, 195 serious incidents and 7,300 incidents with Australian aircraft, and a further 570 occurrences involving foreign registered aircraft. Helicopters had a higher accident rate than fixed wing aircraft. The most accidents happen in aerial agriculture operations, followed by private/business operations, then aerial surveying and mustering.

In commercial air transport 2012 saw a jump in the number of serious incidents, and there were 13 total accidents involving 2 serious injuries and 3 fatalities. The accident rate calculated on 2011 data, which is the most recent available shows that 15.3 accidents happen in commercial air transport per million departures, and there are 1.5 fatal accidents per million departures. The majority of the general aviation occurrences involved airspace incursions, non-compliance with air traffic control and bird strikes.  Most accidents and serious incidents involved collisions with terrain, engine failures and loss of aircraft control.

The picture for high capacity regular public transport (ie, “RPT”, or larger airline services) is still good in terms of injury and fatalities, but serious incidents have risen 72% from 2003 to 2012. The last fatal accident occurred in RPT in Australia in 1975 at Sydney Airport and was not associated with the death of a passenger. The accident rate on 2011 data shows that 5.6 accidents happen in RPT per million departures with zero fatalities – an enviable record. The serious incidents recorded typically involved losses of separation where procedures being used by air traffic control were not maintained, or incorrectly applied, and the ATSB has said it will release a review into all the loss of separation occurrences which have happened in Australia since 2008. Other incidents involved animal strikes, non-compliance with published information or air traffic control instructions, and aircraft and airframe system issues.

Recreational aviation was included for the first time in 2012 and there were 274 occurrences which involved controlled airspace incursions, engine malfunctions, aircraft control problems and runway events (such as veer offs).

Some of the major figures from the report are set out below:

Commercial air transport fatalities (2003-11): 41 (from 14 associated aircraft)

  • 17 from low capacity regular public transport, and
  • 24 from charter operations
General aviation (GA) fatalities (2003-11): 249 (from 158 associated aircraft)
  • 16 from agricultural aerial work;
  • 7 from mustering;
  • 4 from emergency medical service flights;
  • 2 from fire control;
  • 16 from survey and photography and
  • 12 unknown
  • 19 from flying training
  • 170 from private/business flights
  • 23 from sport aviation
  • 3 from foreign registered GA aircraft
  • 89 from recreational aviation

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: September 7, 2017.

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