2012 was best year in history for airplane safety, but Africa remains a concern as per IATA

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that the 2012 global accident rate for Western-built jets was the lowest in aviation history. The 2012 global Western-built jet accident rate (measured in hull losses* per million flights of Western-built jets) was 0.20, the equivalent of one accident every 5 million flights. This represented a 46% improvement over 2011, when the accident rate was 0.37, or one accident for every 2.7 million flights.

*Editor’s note: A hull loss is an accident in which the aircraft is destroyed or substantially damaged and not subsequently repaired for whatever reason including a financial decision by the owner.

No member of IATA, which represents some 240 airlines comprising 84% of global air traffic, recorded a Western-built jet hull loss in 2012.

The safety numbers

  • Close to 3 billion people flew safely on 37.5 million flights (29.8 million by jet, 7.7 million by turboprop)
  • 75 accidents (all aircraft types, Eastern and Western built), down from 92 in 2011
  • 15 fatal accidents (all aircraft types) versus 22 in 2011
  • 6 hull loss accidents involving Western-built jets compared to 11 in 2011 (all losses suffered by non-IATA member operators)
  • 3 fatal hull loss accidents involving Western-built jets, down from 5 in 2011
  • 414 fatalities compared to 486 in 2011
  • Fatality rate slightly increased to 0.08 per million passengers from 0.07 in 2011 based on Western-built jet operations
  • IATA member airlines outperformed the industry average for accidents of all aircraft types (0.71 accidents per million flights compared to 2.01), accounting for 13 of the 75 accidents


All 381 airlines on the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) Registry experienced no Western-built jet hull loss accidents. The total accident rate (all aircraft types) for IOSA registered carriers was 4.3 times better than the rate for non-IOSA carriers (0.96 vs. 4.11).

IOSA is a requirement for all 240+ airlines who are members of IATA. A further 140 non-IATA operators are also on the IOSA registry.

Regional Highlights—Western-built Jet Hull Loss Rates

The following regions outperformed the global Western-built jet hull loss rate of 0.20:

  • Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) (0.0), Europe (0.15), Middle East and North Africa (0.0), North America (0.0), and North Asia (0.0).
  • The following regions saw their safety performance improve in 2012 compared to 2011: the CIS (from 1.06 to 0.00), Latin America and the Caribbean (from 1.28 to 0.42), Middle East and North Africa (from 2.02 to 0.0) and North America (from 0.10 to 0.0).
  • The following regions saw safety performance decline in 2012 compare to 2011: Africa (from 3.27 to 3.71), Asia-Pacific (from 0.25 to 0.48) and Europe (from 0.0 to 0.15).
  • Latin America and the Caribbean posted a second consecutive year of improvement (0.42 vs. 1.28) but the region’s rate was still higher than the world average.
  • Africa registered a higher rate, from 3.27 in 2011 to 3.71 in 2012, and it is still the worst performer by a large margin.

Safety in Africa

Africa’s Western-built jet hull loss rate showed a higher rate compared to 2011 (3.71 vs. 3.27). The region’s accident rate for all aircraft types more than doubled (12.44 accidents per million flights from 6.17 in 2011), with 13 accidents in 2012 (up from 8 accidents in 2011).

African airlines on the IOSA registry had no accidents.

In May 2012, IATA, with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and a host of other organisations, committed to an Africa Strategic Improvement Action Plan aimed at addressing safety deficiencies and strengthening regulatory oversight in the region by 2015. The Plan was endorsed as part of the ‘Abuja Declaration’ by the Ministerial meeting on Aviation Safety and Security of the African Union in July and endorsed at the Assembly of the African Union in January 2013.

Accident Analysis

Runway excursions, in which an aircraft departs a runway during a landing or takeoff, were the most common type of accident in 2012 (28% of total accidents). 82% of runway excursions occur following a stable approach where the aircraft floated beyond the normal touchdown point, or braking devices did not activate in a timely manner, or because directional control was not maintained after landing.

This type of accident continues to present challenges for the industry. Despite an increase in the runway excursion accident rate in 2012, the five-year trend in actual accidents remains downward (2008:28, 2009:23, 2010:20, 2011:17, 2012:21). In 2013, IATA will continue to work with industry partners to support regional runway safety seminars and to update the IATA Runway Excursion Risk Reduction (RERR) toolkit. Furthermore, IOSA now requires that airlines make use of Flight Data Analysis (FDA) programs which can help identify precursors to runway excursions.

Loss of Control In-flight (LOC-I) is not a common accident category, but result in the most fatalities, 43% of all fatal accidents and 60% of all fatalities from 2008-2012. In 2008 there were 14 LOC-I accidents followed by: 2009:9, 2010:10, 2011:8, 2012:6. IATA is working with industry partners to implement a global LOC-I prevention program that will assist operators to understand the factors involved in these events. In addition, this program will provide guidance for an enhanced pilot training and establish a process for feedback into the IATA Training and Qualification Initiative (ITQI). 

Information Sharing

Data sharing is crucial to identifying trends that could indicate a potential safety issue. In 2009, IATA launched the Global Safety Information Center (GSIC). This incorporates operational and safety information fed by seven different databases. These are accident data, operational safety reports, IOSA and IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO) audit findings, Flight Data eXchange (FDX), an aircraft ground damage database and a new cabin safety operational report database. More than 460 different organizations around the globe are already submitting information to GSIC. Continuing with the work started with GSIC, IATA is introducing the new operational data management initiative, incorporating GSIC and expanding data management into other arenas such as operations and infrastructure.

View 2012 IATA Aviation Safety Performance Report (pdf)

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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