Despite low record of accidents - with one hull loss for every 2.4 million flights, Malaysia Airlines' MH370 serves as a reminder that the aviation industry should further make flying even safer.
in a keynote address at the opening of the IATA OPS Conference, in Kuala Lumpur today, International Air Transport Association (IATA) Director General and CEO, Tony Tyler, has called on governments and industry to focus on partnerships, data analysis and runway safety in the ongoing quest to make flying even safer.
Speaking amid the ongoing search for MH370, Tyler also committed IATA to facilitate a unified industry position on global tracking of aircraft and called on governments to make more effective use of passenger data.
“In 2013, there were over 29 million flights operated on Western-built jet aircraft, with 12 hull losses. That is one accident for every 2.4 million flights and a 14.6 per cent improvement on the five-year industry average. Accidents are rare, but the current search for MH370 is a reminder that we can never be complacent on safety. It may well a long time before we know exactly what happened on that flight. But it is already clear that we must never let another aircraft go missing in this way. And it is equally clear that governments must make better use of the passenger data that they mandate airlines to provide,” said Tyler.
He added that speculation will not make flying any safer.
"We should not jump to any conclusions on probable cause before the investigation into MH370 closes. There are, however, at least two areas of process – aircraft tracking and passenger data - where there are clearly challenges that need to be overcome,” said Tyler.
MH370 has highlighted the need to improve our tracking of aircraft in flight. “In a world where our every move seems to be tracked, there is disbelief both that an aircraft could simply disappear and that the flight data and cockpit voice recorders are so difficult to recover. Air France 447 brought similar issues to light a few years ago and some progress was made. But that must be accelerated. We cannot let another aircraft simply vanish,” said Tyler.
He also urged all to follow the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) process to move this forward.
“Industry must - and will - play a role in supporting ICAO in this effort with a united position. IATA will convene an expert task force that will include ICAO participation to ensure that the work is well coordinated. This group will examine all of the options available for tracking commercial aircraft against the parameters of implementation, investment, time and complexity to achieve the desired coverage. This group will report its conclusions by December 2014, reflecting the need for urgent action and careful analysis,” said Tyler.
He also called on governments to: harmonise passenger data collected by airlines on the ICAO standard elements and eliminate all other non-standard requirements; eliminate the collection of passenger and cargo data using paper forms; and create a single harmonised window through which airlines can submit electronic data to governments.
According to Tyler, about 100,000 flights are operated safely each day. Every flight that takes off involves thousands of coordinated actions across multiple businesses and organisations.
"To keep flying safe, we need not only to understand and work with each other every day. We must also compare notes, collaborate and work together to build the future with a common vision,” said Tyler.
“No matter how hard we may compete within an industry sector or how differently we may see the world when it comes to thorny commercial issues, we are an industry that is absolutely unified in its dedication to global standards and safety,” said Tyler. “That has allowed us to evolve a tradition of transparently sharing information, experiences and best practices to make flying ever safer.”
Aside from partnerships, he also stressed the importance of effective data analysis.
IATA has established the Global Aviation Data Management (GADM) project. GADM includes data from over 600 sources, making it the most comprehensive collection of industry information, including the STEADES database, audit data from the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations and the IATA Operational Safety Audit. There are also contributions from many others, including the European Aviation Safety Authority, the US Federal Aviation Administration, and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
“Together, industry and regulators are on the cusp of a great step forward in how we manage safety. We have talked about GADM for years. Now it is becoming a reality. We need as many stakeholders as possible to contribute their data. An increase in the number of users of the data will transform GADM from insight to real safety improvements,” said Tyler.
He also stressed on runway safety, which requires a perspective that includes air traffic management as well as the airport and airline.
“About a quarter of all accidents over the last five years were runway excursions. But when we take a broader look at the issue, about half of all accidents in the same five-year period are actually in the runway environment. Therefore, it makes sense to understand not only what happened when the aircraft landed, together with data from the air navigation service provider for the conditions of the landing, but also the airport data for the conditions around that runway” said Tyler.
The latest version of the runway risk reduction toolkit was launched in late 2013 featuring this broader perspective.
Representing some 240 airlines comprising 84 per cent of global air traffic, IATA announced that in 2013, there were 210 fatalities from commercial aviation accidents, reduced from 414 in 2012.
2013 Safety by the numbers:
More than 3 billion people flew safely on 36.4 million flights (29.5 million by jet, 6.9 million by turboprop)
81 accidents (all aircraft types, Eastern and Western built), up from 75 in 2012, but below the five-year average of 86 per year
16 fatal accidents (all aircraft types) versus 15 in 2012 and the five-year average of 19
20% of all accidents were fatal, unchanged from 2012 and below the five-year average of 22%
12 hull loss accidents involving Western-built jets compared to six in 2012 and the five-year average of 13
Six fatal hull loss accidents involving Western-built jets, raised from three in 2012, unchanged from the five-year average
210 fatalities compared to 414 in 2012 and the five-year average of 517