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Home CNN Airplane safety has hit a new record. But these ‘critical phase’ challenges are still a problem

Airplane safety has hit a new record. But these ‘critical phase’ challenges are still a problem

by Chanel Rowe
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Originally Published: 29 FEB 24 10:41 ET

By Maureen O’Hare, CNN

(CNN) — This year hasn’t started well for aviation safety, with a runway collision at Tokyo’s Haneda airport and a door plug blowing out mid-air from an Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 in January, and with four more fatal accidents involving regional and business aircraft in the weeks since.

However, commercial airplanes remain the safest form of travel and a new report released February 28 confirms that 2023 was, by several measures, the safest year ever for flying.

Now in its 60th year, the IATA Annual Safety Report – compiled by the International Air Transport Association – has been tracking the evolution of commercial aviation safety since 1964.

Its data recorded 37 million flights in 2023 (both jet and turboprop), an increase of 17% on the year before. But despite this, 2023 had the lowest fatality risk and “all accident” rate on record. “At this level of safety, on average a person would have to travel by air every day for 103,239 years to experience a fatal accident,” says the IATA report.

There were no fatal accidents or hull losses involving passenger jet aircraft last year, but the tragedy of Yeti Airlines Flight 691, a turboprop plane that crashed in Nepal in January with the loss of 72 lives, confirms that we can never take safety for granted. The industry must always strive to improve. “This is what we have done throughout our history. And we will continue to make flying ever safer,” said Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General.

Regional breakdown

The 2023 “all accident” rate was better than the year before in all regions except North America and Asia Pacific. There were a number of close calls on US runways in 2023, with seven runway incursions – when planes get in the way of one another on the runway – recorded by mid-March alone.

Europe has maintained a fatality risk of zero since 2018. However, the biggest chunk of the non-fatal airplane incidents in the region were related to landing gear collapse. Says the IATA: “Challenges persist in the critical phases of flight, especially during landing and take-off, with over half of all accidents occurring during 2014-2023 occurring during these phases.”

Africa had the highest accident rate with 6.38 accidents per million sectors in 2023, although that’s improving on the year before and there haven’t been any fatal accidents in the region since 2020.

North Asia was the safest region in the world. Its accident rate dropped from 0.45 accidents per million sectors down to 0.00 in 2023, while the fatality risk dropped from 0.23 in 2022 in 0.00 in 2023.

The collision at Tokyo Haneda in January 2024 will impact North Asia’s safety performance for this year, although the Japan Airlines crew were praised for their excellent execution of safety protocol, which prevented this particular disaster turning into a much greater tragedy.

The-CNN-Wire
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Delta plane

**This image is for use with this specific article only** Jets at Palm Beach International Airport in Florida. North America has maintained a fatality risk of zero since 2020, says IATA.

Greg Lovett/The Palm Beach Post/USA Today Network/Sipa USA via CNN Newsource

29 Feb 24

Airport runway

**This image is for use with this specific article only** Despite recent incidents, flying remains the safest way to travel.

jtyler/E+/Getty Images via CNN Newsource

29 Feb 24

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