Fourteen commercial air transport accidents, including two fatal accidents with a total of three fatalities, were reported in Australia in 2013, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) says (Table 1).
The ATSB’s most recent data review, Aviation Occurrence Statistics: 2004 to 2013, released in November, compared the 2013 total with the previous year’s single fatal accident, which resulted in one fatality. Data show that over the 10 years covered by the data review, the annual number of fatal commercial air transport accidents has ranged from zero to three, and fatalities have numbered as few as zero and as many as 18. There were 14 total accidents in both 2013 and 2012; over the 10-year period, the number in that category has been as low as 11 and as high as 29.
The number of reportable incidents and serious incidents involving commercial air transport aircraft increased “almost every year over the last 10 years,” the report said, characterizing the increases as “a sign of growing flying activity in most types of air transport, and a greater awareness among operators of their reporting requirements.1
“Serious incidents are indicators of events that almost led to accidents. As such, they represent occurrences which could have had more serious consequences.”
The report noted that the 49 serious incidents reported in 2013 represented the highest number in the 10-year period, up from 30 in 2004. The number of incidents also increased steadily over the time period, to 4,261 in 2013, up from 2,760 at the start of the period and up from 4,067 in 2012.
Both the commercial air transport accident rate and the fatal accident rate fell in 2012 — the most recent year for which the rates were available — with the accident rate at 9.9 accidents per million departures, compared with 15.2 per million departures the previous year, and the fatal accident rate at 0.7 per million departures, down from 1.4 per million departures in 2011. Both rates had peaked in 2008, when accidents occurred at a rate of 22.3 per million departures, and fatal accidents at a rate of 2.3 per million departures.
Most accidents and serious incidents involving commercial air transport operations were associated with one of six event categories — aircraft separation, aircraft control, powerplant and propulsion, fuel-related, terrain collisions and runway events, the report said. The most frequent incident category was a wildlife strike.
When Australian-registered, high-capacity regular public transport (RPT) and charter aircraft2 were considered separately, data showed two accidents in 2013, compared with one the previous year (Table 2). There were no fatal accidents involving these aircraft in the 10-year period, the report said.
The 23 serious incidents involving high-capacity RPT aircraft in 2013 represented the highest number of incidents in the 10-year period, and nearly double the 12 incidents reported in 2012, the report said.
The total accident rate for high-capacity RPT aircraft in 2013 was 3.3 per million departures, compared with 1.7 per million departures in 2012 and with the peak of 6.8 per million departures in 2007.
Low-capacity RPT aircraft3 were not involved in any accidents in 2013 — or in six of the past 10 years (Table 3). The last accident was a fatal accident in 2010 that killed two people, the report said. The annual accident rate and fatal accident rate have been zero since 2010, when the rate was 7.6 accidents per million departures.
The number of serious incidents involving low-capacity RPT aircraft also declined in 2013 to 3, down from 5 in 2012 and from the peak of 11 in 2008. The number of incidents also was down — 372 in 2013, compared with 393 in 2012 and a peak of 572 in 2005, the report said, attributing the lower numbers to reduced flight activity.
“This decline is a combined result of Australia’s mining boom (larger aircraft are needed to move more people to regional cities and mining communities), regional airlines using aircraft with larger seating capacities (moving many former lower-capacity flights into the high-capacity aircraft range) and the additional regional travel options provided by high-capacity RPT operators,” the report said.
The data also showed a decrease in general aviation accidents in 2013 — 93, down from 103 accidents in 2012; in fatal accidents — 15, down from 20 accidents in 2012; and in fatalities — 24, down from 29 in 2012. The general aviation accident rate in 2012 (the last year for which the data were available) was 56.6 per million departures, with a fatal accident rate of 11.3 per million departures.
- An incident is defined as “an occurrence, other than an accident, associated with the operation of an aircraft which affects or could affect the safety of operation.” A serious incident is defined as “an incident involving circumstances indicating that an accident nearly occurred.”
- High capacity aircraft are those certified as having a maximum capacity of more than 38 seats or a maximum payload capability of more than 4,200 kg (9,259 lb).
- Low capacity aircraft are those with a maximum capacity of 38 seats or a maximum payload capability of 4,200 kg.