Airlines have been told they need to increase their focus on safety as despite the significant fall in flights due to COVID the accident rate for 2020 was still above the five year average.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has published its 2020 Safety Report and released data for the 2020 safety performance of the commercial airline industry, and with it a call for action by its Director General and CEO.
The report found the total number of accidents decreased from 52 in 2019 to 38 in 2020, with the total number of fatal accidents decreasing from 8 in 2019 to 5 in 2020.
However, the all accident rate was 1.71 accidents per million flights. The figure was higher than the 5-year (2016-2020) average rate which is 1.38 accidents per million flights. IATA member airlines’ accident rate was 0.83 per million flights, which was an improvement over the 5-year average rate of 0.96.
COVID saw total flight operations reduced by 53% to 22 million in 2020, with the fatality risk remaining unchanged compared to the five-year average at 0.13.
IATA stressed with a fatality risk of 0.13 for air travel, on average, a person would have to travel by air every day for 461 years before experiencing an accident with at least one fatality. On average, a person would have to travel every day for 20,932 years to experience a 100% fatal accident.
“Flying is safe, although the industry did take a step back on performance in 2020. The severe reduction in flight numbers magnified the impact of each accident when we calculate rates. But numbers don’t lie, and we will not allow this to become a trend. We will have even sharper focus on safety during this period of reduced operations and as flight schedules are rebuilt when the world reopens,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
For the first time in more than 15 years there were no Loss of Control Inflight (LOC-I) accidents, which have accounted for the largest share of fatalities since 2016. “The lack of any such events in 2020 was a positive development. Nevertheless, based on the initial reports from the investigation into the tragic loss of Sriwijaya Air SJ 182 early in 2021, we must continue to learn and improve,” said Mr de Juniac.
The global average hull loss rate rose slightly in 2021 compared to the five-year average (2016-2020) despite improvement in five regions.
Six regions showed improvement or no deterioration in the turboprop hull loss rate in 2020 when compared to their respective five-year averages. Accidents involving turboprop aircraft represented 29% of all accidents and 40% of fatal accidents in 2020.
Airlines based in sub-Saharan Africa experienced six accidents last year, two of which were fatal, both involving turboprop aircraft. This is the same number of fatal accidents that occurred in 2019, nevertheless the fatality risk increased owing to the fact that there were fewer flights last year. There were no hull loss accidents involving jet aircraft in 2020.
The focus in Africa continues to be on accelerating the implementation of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) safety-related standards and recommended practices (SARPS). At year-end 2020, some 28 African countries (61% of the total) had at least 60% SARPS implementation, unchanged from 2019. “While we recognize the extraordinary challenges in 2020 that touched on all aspects of aviation, we hope that we will see additional movement in this number as the pandemic recedes,” said Mr de Juniac.