Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 1 April 2020

Fatal plane crashes drop by over 50% in 2019

The deadly Boeing 737 Max jet crashes pose difficult questions for the aviation industry, consultancy says

Workers walk away from the Boeing factory in Renton, Washington, where the company's 737 Max airplanes are built. The two deadly crashes involving the plane model have raised tough questions for the aviation industry. The AP.
Workers walk away from the Boeing factory in Renton, Washington, where the company's 737 Max airplanes are built. The two deadly crashes involving the plane model have raised tough questions for the aviation industry. The AP.

The number of deaths in large commercial plane crashes around the world fell by more than 50 per cent in 2019, despite high-profile incidents such as the Ethiopian Airlines tragedy in March that led to the global grounding of Boeing's 737 Max fleet.

A total of 86 accidents, eight of which were fatal, resulted in 257 fatalities last year, Dutch consultancy To70 said in its aviation safety report on Wednesday. This compares with 160 accidents, 13 of which were fatal, resulting in 534 fatalities during 2018.

The deadly 737 Max crashes in October 2018 and March 2019 are "a reminder that we need to retain our focus on the basics that make civil aviation so safe: well-designed and well-built aircraft flown by fully informed and well-trained crews", the consultancy said in its review.

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World's safest airlines 2020 revealed

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The grounding of Boeing's best-selling narrowbody jet, after two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people, rocked the company and the aviation industry. The disasters and their aftermath led to multiple regulatory and criminal investigations, hurt airlines and suppliers and dented traveller confidence in the plane. Boeing ousted its chief executive Dennis Muilenburg, replacing him with chairman David Calhoun, in the hope of regaining trust.

The rate of fatal accidents among large commercial planes dropped to 0.18 per million flights in 2019, from 0.20 a year earlier, even as air traffic grew 4.2 per cent year-on-year, To70 said. That is an average of one fatal accident every 5.58 million flights.

"Despite a number of high profile accidents, this year’s fatal accident rate is lower than the average of the last five years," the consultancy said.

While the accident rate was low, the Boeing 737 crashes pose "difficult questions" for the industry regarding derivatives of plane models, how much information and training is needed on new systems and how aviation regulators delegate powers to jet manufacturers, it said. The industry has also invested significantly in preventing "future threats" from technologies such as drones.

To70 said its report examined large passenger aircraft used by most travellers, excluding small commuter aeroplanes in service around the world.

Separately, the Aviation Safety Network said in a January 1 report that despite the high-profile Boeing 737 Max accident in March last year, 2019 was one of the safest years ever for commercial aviation.

The safest year in aviation history was 2017, with 10 accidents and 44 lives lost, it said.

Last week, 12 people were killed when a Bek Air passenger plane, carrying nearly 100 people, crashed on December 27 shortly after departing from Almaty airport in Kazakhstan. On May 5, a Russian Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft caught fire as it made an emergency landing at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, killing 41 people.

Updated: January 3, 2020 09:36 AM

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