2019 still one of aviation’s safest years despite 737 MAX

January 02, 2020
aviation safety low ASN
Ethiopian's group chief executive at the crash site. Photo: Ethiopian

Last year remained one of the safest ever for commercial aviation, despite the high-profile Boeing 737 MAX accident that prompted the grounding of the global fleet.

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.

Watch an Air Canada 777 clip an A321.

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 safest year in aviation history was 2017, with 10 accidents and 44 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 most serious of these was the March 10 Ethiopian Airlines tragedy, which killed 157 people, followed by the May 5 crash in Russia of an Aeroflot Sukhoi Superjet 100 in which 41 died.

The statistics also included seven deaths in an October 2 crash of a World War II B-17 Flying Fortress in the US.

Three accidents took place during takeoff, 10 occurred while the aircraft was en route, three during approach and four while landing.

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.

“Despite progress made through various safety initiatives by Canadian and US regulators, this still is an area of concern,’’ it said.

But it could have been worse and, according to Aviation Safety Network chief executive Harold Ranter, the fact that it wasn’t was due to a significant increase in the level of safety,

“If the accident rate had remained the same as ten years ago, there would have been 34 fatal accidents last year,’’ Ranter said.

“At the accident rate of the year 2000, there would even have been 65 fatal accidents. This shows the enormous progress in terms of safety in the past two decades.”

A second safety analysis using different criteria by aviation consultants to70 estimated the fatal accident rate for large commercial aircraft at 0.18 per million flights, down from 0.2 last year.

That equated to an average of one fatal accident every 5.58 million flights.