Global flight accident rate dropped for the first time in 15 years

The global commercial flight industry fared better on safety parameters in 2021 as the accident rate fell and for the first time in at least 15 years.

There were no runway or taxiway excursion accidents, said airlines trade body, International Air Transport Association (IATA) in its recently released 2021 safety performance data.

“Safety is always our highest priority. The severe reduction in flight numbers last year compared to the 5-year average magnified the impact of each accident when we calculate rates. Yet, in the face of numerous operational challenges in 2021, the industry improved in several key safety metrics. At the same time, it is clear that we have much work ahead of us to bring all regions and types of operations up to global levels of safety performance.

In the face of numerous operational challenges in 2021, the industry improved in several key safety metrics. At the same time, it is clear that we have much work ahead of us to bring all regions and types of operations up to global levels of safety performance.”

Willie Walsh, Director General, IATA

In 2021, the rate was one accident for every 9.9 lakh flight, while a year earlier it was one for every 6.3 lakh flight in the year 2020, it said. In 2021, 2.5 crore airline passenger flights were operated out of which 26 met with accidents. Within these, 7 were fatal crashes that killed a total of 121 people.

In the five previous years (between 2016 and 2020), runway and taxiway excursion accidents had the highest frequency of accidents worldwide. Between those years, IATA registered 79 excursions, nearly 30% of all the accidents in that span.

A runway excursion occurs when an aircraft departs the runway in use during the take-off or landing run

A runway excursion occurs when an aircraft departs the runway in use during the take-off or landing run. There are also runway incursions, although those are less frequent.

Despite IATA claims, there were a few runway excursions in 2021, although not directly related to commercial aviation. For instance, a test flight for an Irkut MC-21 prototype aircraft slid off the runway and got stuck in the snow at Moscow-Zhukovsky airport in January 2021.

Among the fatal crashes, one involved a large passenger jet aircraft — the Sriwijaya Air Boeing 737-500 crash in Indonesia on January 9, 2021, which killed all 61 people, and the rest were smaller turboprop accidents.

Air India Express aircraft crashed in Calicut on August 7, 2020, which killed 21 people.

In 2020, 2.22 crore airline flights were operated, 35 accidents occurred, out of which 5 were fatal with a total death toll of 132 people. Among them was the Air India Express crash in Calicut on August 7, 2020, which killed 21 people.

Within the commercial airline industry, IATA member airlines fared better, with one accident for every 22 lakh flight in 2021, while the rate in 2020 was higher at one accident for every 13 lakh flight, showed the report.

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