Loss of control responsible for 40 per cent of air accidents

Date: 25 June 2013

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has today published a study of recent world-wide air accidents. The CAA said the findings of its Global Fatal Accident Review 2002-2011 will help it identify major safety issues and trends allowing it to develop key safety initiatives in co-ordination with UK airlines.

The CAA’s Global Fatal Accident Review gives an overview of accidents involving large jet and turboprop aeroplanes conducting passenger and cargo operations. The analysis of a decade of world-wide air accidents, has revealed ‘loss of control’ to be the most prevalent type of accident. Common factors in loss of control type accidents include engine malfunctions and flight crew failure to recover from stalls/underspeeds/overspeeds.

In publishing the report the CAA pointed out that the fatal accident rate for the European Union was approximately six times less than the worldwide average. During the ten-year period, UK operated aircraft had no fatal accidents that met the dataset criteria.

The report found there were a total of 250 worldwide fatal accidents, resulting in 7,148 fatalities during the ten-year study period - equating to an average of one fatal accident and 28 fatalities every two weeks. Of these accidents, an average of 30 per cent of the aircraft’s occupants survived.

Commenting on the report Gretchen Haskins, Group Safety Director at the CAA, said: ”Analysing air accident data is a very important way for us to understand the nature of the risks faced by the aviation industry. It helps us identify specific safety issues and also track trends over the long term. This allows us to focus attention where it is most needed and assists UK airlines to maintain our outstanding safety record.”

A previous CAA study, covering the period 1997-2006, revealed 283 fatal accidents resulting in 8,599 fatalities, with a 31 per cent survival rate.

The total number of flights flown during the 2002 to 2011 period was 317,658,933, giving an accident rate of 0.6 per million flights flown. This compared to 295,995,303 flights in the previous ten-year study, - an accident rate of 0.79 per million flights.

The CAA’s report aligns closely with the findings of similar studies conducted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, European Aviation Safety Agency and the International Air Transport Association over recent years. Key outcomes of the CAA report, include:

• Nearly 40 per cent of all fatal accidents involved some kind of loss of control, making this the most frequent type of accident.

• Over a third of all fatal accidents involved a post-crash fire; however this was always in conjunction with, or as a result of another consequence rather than in its own right. Fires in flight were far less common, accounting for five per cent of all fatal accidents.

• Two-thirds of all fatal accidents involved at least one flight operations related causal factor (e.g. flight crew omission of action or inappropriate action).

• Approximately 40 per cent of all fatal accidents involved at least one airworthiness related causal factor, which includes maintenance issues, system/component failures, engine failures and problems with aircraft design.

As well as underpinning its existing Significant Seven safety risks, the causal factors identified in the report will inform future safety critical workstreams the CAA will engage in with the aviation industry.

The full report Global Fatal Accident Review 2002-2011 can be downloaded from the CAA website.

Any questions or comments on the document can be sent to safety.analysis@caa.co.uk

For more information on the Significant Seven safety risks to commercial aviation go to www.caa.co.uk/significantseven. These risks were identified following in-depth research carried out on the reports of over 1,000 fatal global accidents, and through the THREAT (The High Risk Events Analysis Team) analysis of the CAA’s own Mandatory Occurrence Reporting Scheme database. The risks include loss of control; runway excursion; controlled flight into terrain; runway incursions; airborne conflict; ground handling; and fire.

For further media information contact the CAA Press Office on: 00 44 (0)207 453 6030. press.office@caa.co.uk

You can follow the CAA on Twitter at @UK_CAA.

Notes to Editors:

The CAA is the UK's specialist aviation regulator. Its activities include: making sure that the aviation industry meets the highest technical and operational safety standards; preventing holidaymakers from being stranded abroad or losing money because of tour operator insolvency; planning and regulating all UK airspace; and regulating airports, air traffic services and airlines and providing advice on aviation policy from an economic standpoint.