Approximately 61 percent of all commercial aviation accidents in 2013 occurred during the approach and landing phases of flight, according to an analysis of harmonized International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and International Air Transport Association (IATA) safety data. The analysis was included in the recently released ICAO Safety Report 2014 Edition. Forty-three percent of 103 accidents considered using the harmonized accident criteria occurred during the landing phase, followed by 18 percent during approach and 12 percent during takeoff (Figure 1). The other 27 percent occurred during the en route, standing1 and taxi phases.
In September 2010, IATA, ICAO, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the European Commission signed a memorandum of understanding on a global safety information exchange (GSIE), the objective of which is to identify information that can be exchanged between the parties to enhance risk reduction activities in aviation safety, according to the ICAO Safety Report. The GSIE developed a harmonized accident rate beginning in 2011 through cooperation between ICAO and IATA to align accident definitions, criteria and analysis methods used to calculate the harmonized rate. The analysis includes accidents meeting the ICAO Annex 13, Incident Reporting, Data Systems and Information Exchange, criteria for all typical commercial airline operations for scheduled and nonscheduled flights. For 2013, ICAO and IATA further harmonized the accident analysis process and developed a common list of flight phases and accident categories to facilitate the sharing and integration of safety data between the two organizations, ICAO said.
The 103 accidents in 2013 considered using the harmonized criteria were scheduled and nonscheduled commercial operations, including ferry flights, for aircraft with a maximum certificated takeoff weight of more than 5,700 kg (12,566 lb).
Of the 103 accidents, 36 fell into the “runway safety” category, which includes excursions and incursions, overshoot/undershoot, tail strike and hard landing events (Figure 2). Twenty accidents were categorized as “operational damage,” described as damage sustained by the aircraft while operating under its own power. This includes in-flight damage, foreign object debris and all system or component failures including gear-up landings and gear collapses.
The next most common category was “ground safety,” with 15 accidents. Ground safety includes ramp safety, ground collisions, all ground servicing, pre-flight, engine start/departure and arrival events, taxi and towing events. Controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) and loss of control–in flight (LOC-I) accounted for seven and six accidents, respectively.
The ICAO Safety Report also included a harmonized regional analysis using the organization’s regional aviation safety group (RASG) regions: Pan America (PA), Africa (excluding North Africa; AFI), Middle East (MID), Europe (EUR) and Asia Pacific (APAC). According to the analysis, RASG-PA had the most accidents, followed at a distance by RASG-EUR and RASG-APAC (Figure 3). RASG-AFI, however, had by the far the highest accident rate at more than 14 accidents per million departures (Figure 4), followed by RASG-MID, with fewer than four accidents per million departures.
The vast majority (79 percent) of the 103 accidents analyzed involved passenger flights. Approximately 16 percent involved cargo flights and 5 percent involved ferry flights. Most of the accidents occurred to jet aircraft (54 percent), but ICAO pointed out that turboprop aircraft, which suffered 46 percent of the accidents, represent a much smaller percentage of the global commercial fleet than do jet aircraft.
The 2014 Safety Report was the first to include a section dedicated to aircraft below the traditional 5,700 kg mass limit, albeit on a limited basis. Because of data acquisition issues, only two regions were considered in the analysis: APAC and North America, Central America and Caribbean (NACC), ICAO said. Exposure data for small aircraft operations are difficult to obtain, but the number of accidents is well-documented, ICAO said. There were a total of 12 accidents involving fixed wing aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of less than 5,700 kg conducting scheduled commercial operations. Of these, eight occurred in the NACC region and four in the APAC region. Six of the accidents were fatal accidents, and 22 people were killed as a result.
The Safety Report also included the more traditional ICAO accident statistics for scheduled commercial operations involving aircraft with an MTOW greater than 5,700 kg, using the accident definition and categorizations contained in Annex 13. On that basis, the global accident rate last year was 2.8 accidents per million departures, which ICAO said is the lowest since the ICAO Accident/Incident Reporting database began tracking the global accident rate with 2005 occurrence data (Figure 5, p. 45).
Both the number of accidents (90) and the number of fatalities were down in 2013 (Figure 6, p. 45). For the third straight year, the number of accidents declined. The 173 fatalities in 2013 represent a decline of 53 percent from 2012; the fatalities are 65 percent less than the average number for the previous five-year period and the fewest number of fatalities suffered in commercial scheduled air transport since 2000, ICAO said.
When looked at by RASG region, as noted, PA had the most accidents (39, or 43 percent of the total) in the context of significantly more departures (13.8 million, or 43 percent) than any other region in 2013 (Table 1). RASG-MID had the lowest accident rate per million departures at 1.8, followed by RASG-APAC at 2.2. RASG-AFI’s accident rate was 12.9 per million departures, which is lower than its accident rate in the harmonized statistics analysis. Based on its analysis of historic accident data, ICAO has identified three high-risk accident occurrence categories: runway safety-related events, LOC-I and CFIT. These categories together represented 68 percent of all accidents in 2013, comprising 78 percent of fatal accidents and 80 percent of all fatalities (Figure 7).
Runway safety–related accidents accounted for 62 percent of all the accidents within these high-risk categories, but only 22 percent of all fatal accidents and only 6 percent of all fatalities (Figure 8). Conversely, LOC-I accounted for 3 percent of the high-risk category accidents, but 33 percent of all fatal accidents and 60 percent of all fatalities. CFIT accounted for 2 percent of the high-risk category occurrences, but 22 percent of all fatal accidents and 13 percent of all fatalities.
- The Common Taxonomy Team, formed by ICAO and the U.S. Commercial Aviation Safety Team, defines standing as the period “prior to pushback or taxi, or after arrival, at the gate, ramp or parking area, while the aircraft is stationary.”