Safety in the spotlight

Qantas named safest airline and despite MAX crashes, fatal accidents of large passenger aircraft remain rare events.

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(PHOTO: Shutterstock)

The crash of two Boeing MAX jets and a recent accident involving a Fokker 100 have put the spotlight on aviation safety. AirlineRatings.com came out in early January with its safety ratings for global airlines and named Australia’s Qantas as the world’s safest airline. The full list includes:

  1. Qantas
  2. Air New Zealand
  3. EVA Air
  4. Etihad
  5. Qatar Airways
  6. Singapore Airlines
  7. Emirates
  8. Alaska Airlines
  9. Cathay Pacific Airways
  10. Virgin Australia
  11. Hawaiian Airlines
  12. Virgin Atlantic Airlines
  13. TAP Portugal
  14. SAS
  15. Royal Jordanian
  16. Swiss
  17. Finnair
  18. Lufthansa
  19. Aer Lingus
  20. KLM

According to AirlineRatings.com Editor-in-Chief Geoffrey Thomas, these airlines are standouts in the industry and are at the forefront of safety, innovation, and launching of new aircraft. “For instance, Australia’s Qantas has been recognised by the British Advertising Standards Association in a test case as the world’s most experienced airline,” Thomas said. “Qantas has been the lead airline in virtually every major operational safety advancement over the past 60 years and has not had a fatality in the jet era,” he added. “But Qantas is not alone. Long established airlines such as Hawaiian and Finnair have perfect records in the jet era.”

AirlineRatings.com also named the world’s top 10 safest low-cost airlines. Those include, in alphabetical order:

  1. Air Arabia
  2. Flybe
  3. Frontier
  4. HK Express
  5. IndiGo
  6. Jetblue
  7. Volaris
  8. Vueling
  9. Westjet
  10. Wizz

These LCCs have all passed the stringent International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) and have excellent safety records, according to AirlineRatings.com. IOSA is an internationally recognised and accepted evaluation system designed to assess the operational management and control systems of an airline. It looks at more than 1,000 audit parameters and airlines are re-evaluated every two years.

International Air Transport Association members are required to pass IOSA but many LCCs are not part of IATA and choose not to undertake the audit. “Those LCC’s that have decided to use IOSA show an additional commitment to safety,’’ said Thomas. Other factors used to decide the top 10 LCCs include the results of audits conducted by the governing body of aviation, The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), whether they are on banned lists and a fatality-free record for the past 10 years.

Safety in 2019

GRAPHIC: To70

Meanwhile, aviation consultancy To70 released its annual Civil Aviation Safety Review that examines accidents to large passenger aircraft used by most travellers. It includes all causes, whether technical failure, human error or unlawful interference. Despite a number of high-profile accidents, 2019’s fatal accident rate is lower than the average of the last five years.

In 2019 there were 86 accidents, eight of which were fatal, resulting in 257 fatalities. In 2018 there were 160 accidents, 13 of which were fatal, resulting in 534 fatalities. These follow a historic low in 2017 with only two fatal accidents involving regional turboprops (out of 48 accidents) that resulted in the loss of 13 lives.

Despite two high-profile accidents this past year, an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX and an Aeroflot Sukhoi Superjet, and an accident to a Fokker 100 just before the year’s end, fatal accidents to large passenger aircraft remain rare events. Only two other accidents, a piston aircraft in March and a turboprop in November, resulted in more than 10 casualties.

An estimated 4.2 percent growth in air traffic for 2019 over 2018 means that the fatal accident rate for large aeroplanes in commercial air transport is just 0.18 (2018: 0.20) fatal accidents per million flights. That is an average of one fatal accident every 5.58 million flights.

A different set of figures released by the Flight Safety Foundation’s Aviation Safety Network found the number of overall fatalities due to air crashes fell to a below-average 283 in 2019. However, the 20 fatal accidents for the year exceeded the five-year average of 14 accidents and 480 fatalities. The ASN calculated that 2019 was the seventh safest year in terms of the number of accidents and the third safest in terms of fatalities.

The ASN analysis differs from some annual aviation safety statistics in that it includes both passenger and cargo flights and looks at civil aircraft certified to carry 14 or more passengers. Even using a wider scope that includes smaller planes, the ASN calculated the accident rate to be a low one fatal accident for almost two million flights. Thirteen accidents involved passenger flights, six were cargo flights and one was operated by an airline on the EU blacklist. The ASN noted that 11 of the 20 accidents occurred in North America, with five in remote areas or rugged parts of Canada and Alaska.

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