As an industry at the forefront of progression, it perhaps comes as no surprise that last year marked the safest year for aviation since 1945. Indeed, conducive to the diminishing rate of air accidents over the past fifteen years, the trend was bolstered in 2012 with a comparatively lower figure of 23 fatal airliner accidents, amassing to 475 fatalities plus a further 36 on the ground. Curtailing the accident toll with every year has been, among other factors, the improved standards of training provision and effectiveness of regulatory oversight from the likes of ICAO, IATA and relevant civil authorities. However, closer insight reveals the wide disparities that persist between regional segments of the aviation industry.
Magnifying the improvements of last year is the fact that passenger numbers rose by 5.5 percent over 2011 values, amounting to some 2.9 billion people taking to the skies. Moreover, only eleven of the 23 fatal accidents involved passenger flights, with figures for 2012 suggesting a staggering decline of roughly 40 percent over ten-year averages for both the number of accidents and fatalities that were incurred. However, despite accounting for only a marginal share of annual traffic movements, 13 percent of fatal accidents in 2012 involved carriers blacklisted under EU regulations. In addition, the overwhelming majority of accidents were attributed to airlines registered in developing nations, with a number of these states failing to meet the ICAO global average benchmark for an effective safety oversight system.
‘Although representing a mere seven percent of total annual passenger movements, it is clear that carriers registered in Africa, Latin America and the CIS region have formed the bulk of accident statistics over the past few years. It is not surprising, of course, that a considerable degree of maintenance organisations based in these regions have either had their EASA Part-145 approval revoked or otherwise failed to meet compliance from the outset. Boosting aviation safety at its core in these regions will require enhanced technical cooperation and information sharing amongst maintenance personnel with the rest of the world,’ comments Dainius Sakalauskas, the Deputy Head of FL Technics Training.
Regulatory oversight provides the foundation for air safety around the world, however its agency is constrained by both ineffective training and poor supervision in certain regions. As part of its Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP), ICAO addresses a system of shared responsibility between the state and broader aviation community. Specifically, oversight is measured according to critical elements, including legislation, airworthiness, organisation, licensing, operations, aerodromes, air navigation services and accident investigation protocol. The programme has highlighted the discrepancies between the level and effectiveness of regulations in certain regions, which is reflected in the above average airliner accident rates accorded each year.
‘Unless substantial efforts are taken in terms of establishing stringent regulatory standards in poor-performing regions, airport infrastructure, aircraft maintenance and, perhaps most poignantly, training capabilities will continue to be undermined. In order to abate the ongoing concentration of airline accidents in these regions, air operators would serve well to engage in the expertise and knowledge of internationally approved and operating training organisations. Not only would such collaboration focus improved safety on an organisational level, but also help shape the direction of positive change for safety troubled nations,’ comments D. Sakalauskas, the Deputy Head of FL Technics Training.