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Boeing 737 MAX issue - 2019 is One of the safest years in modern airline history

Despite Boeing 737 MAX Issue 2019 is One of The Safest Years in Modern History – By Ahmed Haouaria

04 Jan 2020

Only one crash has caused more than half of all aviation deaths in the past year. One of the safest years in modern history for airlines sector.

Traveling by aircraft is, based on international institutions stats, ICAO and IATA, believed to be the safest form of transportation in the world. This assertion tends to strengthen over time.

Global Insights 

The year 2019 has in any case greatly contributed to this performance. 267 people lost their lives, down from 542 in 2018. It is the third safest since the end of the Second World War, on the podium behind 2017 with 44 fatalities and 2013 with 256 fatalities. Fatalities records related to airlines crash actually started in 1946.

The number of accidents, however, has increased to 14 from 11 in 2018. The last fatal crash of 2019 occurred on Friday, December 27. A Kazakh Fokker 100 from Bek Air crashed into a building during takeoff from Almaty airport in Kazakhstan, killing 12 people (11 passengers and 1 crew member) among the 101 occupants of the aircraft. After takeoff, the aircraft would have lost height very quickly, then veered to the right before hitting a peripheral fence, then fitting into a two-story residential house. There was no fire but the aircraft broke up.

One striking fact in 2019, over half of the casualties were the result of the Ethiopian Airline crash in which 157 passenger and crew members were killed in March when an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed shortly after takeoff from Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa.  The 4-month-old Boeing 737-8 MAX plane crashed six minutes into its flight to Nairobi, Kenya.

Aviation Safety Network's numbers 

According Aviation Safety Network's, in terms of accidents, last year actually had "a markedly higher number" than the five-year average of 14. With an estimated 39,000 flights operating every day, the accident rate was calculated at one accident per two million flights. "If the accident rate had remained the same as 10 years ago, there would have been 34 fatal accidents last year. At the accident rate of the year 2000, there would have been 65 fatal accidents. This shows the enormous progress in terms of safety in the past two decades. 

No deadly accident was recorded in the European Union, although three did occur on European soil including two Russian passenger flights and a Ukrainian cargo flight in which a total of 47 people were killed.

It is important to specify that the provided data, only takes into account the accidents of commercial civil aircraft with a capacity is greater than twenty seats. This therefore implies that these figures do not take military transport into account, for example.A good sign for Civil Aviation: The average accident rate decreases year after year.

Focus on B737 MAX

The year 2019 was marked by the failures of the Boeing 737 MAX. Two terrible crashes took place in the space of a few months for the American aircraft manufacturer. The first, on October 29, 2018, when an airplane of the Indonesian airline Lion Air had crashed at sea, killing 189 people. The second, on March 10, 2019, when the Ethiopian Airlines aircraft caused the death of 157 people. This flight alone was responsible for more than half of the deaths in commercial civil aviation in 2019.These two accidents had the same cause: a defect in the MCSA, a software system on board the Boeing 737 MAX, which is used to stabilize the aircraft in automatic flight, preventing it from picking up and diving.

By dismissing the crisis Boeing is suffered due to these two accidents, largely surpassed by its competitor Airbus in its aircraft deliveries in 2019, the statistics for the past year are extremely reassuring. Today, we consider that a flight is 60 times safer than in the 1970s according to industry professionals, and four times more in 2019 than in 2000. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reports at a rate of 0.91 to quantify the number of accidents per million flights carried out. In 2018, this rate climbed to 1.35. And the number of passengers (4.5 billion in 2019, for 40 million flights) has never been so high.

Africa Good Performance 

In this context, it is worth to highlight the good safety performance of the African countries. Air travel in Africa is safer than ever, despite the Ethiopia crash.

For all the focus on the crash in Ethiopia, major African Airlines and civil aviation authorities have made significant steps in enhancing their safety records in recent years, says Daniel Kwasi Adjekum, an assistant professor of aviation at the University of North Dakota’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences. 

Aviation safety in Africa continues to be a major concern for governments and the industry professionals, although the situation has been improving in recent years. Until the recent Ethiopian Airlines accident, African airlines had gone two years without any jet hull losses. This shows progress after decades of poor safety records in some African countries, which could be attributed to negligent regulatory oversight, obsolete infrastructure, aging and poorly maintained fleets and inadequate technical training of aviation personnel.

There has been a very positive trend with regard to many of the larger African carriers, such as Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways, Kenya Airways, and Royal Air Maroc. These airlines struggle to sustain excellent safety standards to comply with global industry standards, and they have great reputations among the traveling public in Africa. Smaller carriers, have also made progresses in recent years, as demonstrated by their successes in the IATA’s industry-benchmark Operational Safety Audit. In 2018, African carriers that successfully completed this process averaged only 1.18 accidents per million flights, according to the IATA. The global average accident rate was 1.35, which roughly equates to one accident for every 740,000 flights.

African Airlines sector as a business potential 

Economically wise, it is believed that that across the continent, the promise and potential of aviation is rich. Already it supports USD 55.8 billion in economic activity and 6.2 million jobs. And, as demand more than doubles over the next two decades, the critical role that aviation plays in Africa's economic and social development will grow in equal proportion.  Africa is the fastest growing region in the world for air transport, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean. Air traffic in the African sky takes off. The most recent data from the Airports Council International - ACI World show that, from January to August 2019, the number of passengers traveling over African Sky increased by 7.1%. It is the fastest growing region in the world, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean, with a passenger growth of 4.2% over the same period. Africa should therefore once again be the region with the highest growth in air traffic this year. Local investments in infrastructure, efforts to liberalize civil aviation and international tourism partly explain this situation, as does the increase in domestic demand. 


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