IATA CEO: Aviation ‘Extraordinarily Safe’ In 2015 – Realistic Assessment?

While speaking at the Singapore Airshow Aviation Leadership Summit, IATA CEO Tony Tyler presented figures showing less fatal aviation accidents in 2015 and called the year ‘extraordinarily safe’ to fly.

4U A319 IMGBut is that the reality? The figures Tyler presented did not include the loss of two airliners that were the victim of illicit action resulting in the death of all passengers on both flights.

You know the saying ‘Don’t believe any statistic unless you crooked it yourself’… well this could be one of these instances. While I personally believe that aviation is still the safest way of transportation measured on the total number of passengers transported and distance traveled I also believe that figures should be accurately presented.

Tyler spoke at the Singapore Airshow, the Straits Times reported about it (access here).

The number of air accidents and resulting fatalities dropped in 2015 from the previous year, and was well below the five-year average, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Monday (Feb 15), making 2015 “an extraordinarily safe year”.

Some 68 accidents occurred last year, compared with 77 in 2014 and an annual average of 90 over the last five years, according to IATA’s latest annual report on aviation safety. Of 2015’s accidents, four were fatal, versus 12 a year earlier.

“In terms of the number of fatal accidents, it was an extraordinarily safe year,” Mr Tony Tyler, IATA’s director-general and chief executive officer. …

The accidents covered by the report killed 136 people, down from 641 in 2014 and a five-year average of 504, according to IATA, which represents some 260 airlines or 83 percent of the world’s total air traffic.

If the losses of aircraft in incidents involving planes operated by German low-cost carrier Germanwings, a unit of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, and Russia’s Metrojet last year are included, the total number of deaths rose to 510, according to IATA.

At least they acknowledged that the loss of these two airliners would dramatically shift the numbers, moving the presentation into an entirely different light. So why were these two incidents left out from the statistic?

The Germanwings and Metrojet incidents were excluded from IATA’s accident statistics, as they were classified as deliberate acts of unlawful interference. A pilot of the Germanwings aircraft deliberately crashed that plane in the French Alps, while the Metrojet flight was suspected to have been brought down over the Sinai peninsula by a bomb smuggled on board.

“While there are no easy solutions to the mental health and security issues that were exposed in these tragedies, aviation continues to work to minimise the risk that such events will happen again,” said Mr Tyler.

IATA said the 2015 global jet accident rate, measured in hull losses per one million flights, was 0.32, compared with 0.27 in 2014 and 0.46 in the previous five years.

I don’t buy such a reason for an exclusion. A rogue pilot or a terrorist attack are the same risk factor as far as air accidents are concerned than technical malfunctions or pilot error. It’s simply a matter of not being able to exclude any and all risks when going through life. There will always be technical issues, human errors and especially security lapses. No need to whitewash the statistic with such exclusions.

Conclusion

Recent publicized checks showed that at least in the U.S. where the TSA is responsible for security checkpoints, between 75-95% of all weapon-like or prohibited items the test passengers attempted to bring through the checkpoint were missed by the staff.

That doesn’t mean flying is generally unsafe but it demonstrates that no system is perfect and there is always a certain amount of risk involved. Why wouldn’t there be a risk? You sit in a metal tube 38,000 feet above ground. Millions of people buy lottery tickets each week hoping they will win but at the same time they don’t want to believe in the possibility of a plane crashing. The odds of this vs winning the latest powerball are probably greater. Nevertheless I still take my flight in good hopes.

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