This week the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) released aviation occurrence findings which indicate, in Australia at least, serious incidents are rising but accidents are not, except in general and particularly recreational aviation. However, more global, worldwide accident data was released on Tuesday 29 October 2013 at the Flight Safety Foundation’s 66th annual International Air Safety Summit in Washington DC. The trend worldwide makes Australian aviation seem very safe by comparison, as reported at this forum which brings together global aviation safety professionals to identify safety concerns, reduce risks, and implement initiatives to improve safety.
The Flight Safety Foundation is an independent, non-profit organisation aimed at providing expert advice and assistance to the aviation industry, to help identify safety issues and help address them through its data collection and information sharing activities. One of its foundation fellows, Jim Burin, told the Summit on Tuesday that the biggest killer globally of passengers and crew on both jet airliners and turboprop aircraft was controlled flight into terrain. In 2013 there have been at least 12 fatal accidents in this category, compared with an annual average of 6 crashes per year since 2009.
Mr Burin said that these kinds of accidents are making an unwelcome comeback because many of the turboprop accidents which happened in 2013 involved aircraft which were not fitted with ground-collision warning devices and, even when such devices were available, pilots may have disregarded their warnings.
Mr Burin said four out of the five large jet crashes in 2013 were controlled flight into terrain including the crash of an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 in July at San Francisco International Airport, which killed three (also discussed on the Shine Lawyers aviation law news page).
A member of the United States National Transportation Safety Board said accident causes tended to be cyclical and what was one of the top causes of fatalities in past decades now needed to be the subject of industry attention again as the lessons of the past slowly slipped away with time, notwithstanding greater attention to training and identification of such hazards.
In Australia the lesson would appear to be well captured by Kevin Hiatt, the Chief Operating Officer of the Flight Safety Foundation, when he mentioned at the Summit: “we must not let our guard down. Complacency is our enemy”.
Reports like the one produced by the ATSB this week have the capacity to prevent complacency by aviation operators in the Asia Pacific region, by focussing their attention on trends. The identification of particular risks in Australian aviation, such as the underreporting of aviation accidents and incidents in recreational aviation, is known and being actively targeted by the ATSB through programs such as SafetyWatch and Avoidable Accidents. With continued efforts such as these the global trend need never become an Australian one.
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: January 7, 2020.