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The human operator, the least reliable element of an aerodyne, but the most essential...!
Frank Caron (1991)

Last update:
26 September 2016

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Air Safety - Facts about aviation safety

ALL aviation accidents and serious incidents are made by experts...
The following data show the profile of the operator involved in accident or serious incident.
  1. Experienced crews:
    • more than 6000 hours flying time
    • More than 1000 hours on the aircraft type,

  2. Judged pretty good vocational by the other company crew members,

  3. most of them were pretty well trained about the aircraft procedures,

  4. most of them were pretty well trained about the company procedures,

  5. most of them they were well trained to CRM,
  6. All were very motivated crews.

In conclusion, the experience ONLY does not prevent from being involved in accident.

Some statistics
From NTSB during 1970 to 2000.

  1. About the flight crews:
    • the 81% of the accidents/serious incidents occurred when the Captain was the Pilot Flying (PF),

    • more than 50% of the accidents involved FO during their first year of (transport) pilot,

    • 73% occurred on the first day crew was flying together,

    • 44% occurred on the first flight leg of the crew's first flight together,

  2. About their behavior:
    • 96% of all the violations in flight are from origin human...

    • 83% of the human errors in the important accidents are the fact of defects of monitoring or questioning,

    • 90% of the impacts with the ground involve crews not observing the procedures,

    • 69% of the communication errors are done by FO,

    • When pilots are in a hurry or under pressure:
      • 63% of the errors are carried out during preflight,

      • 34% during taxi,

      • 80% are carried out during strong workloads,

      • 48% show clearance or trajectory respect default,

  3. About the phase of flight:
    • 78% of the important accidents take place during either takeoff or the landing,

    • 80% of the errors during taxi lead to an accident,

  4. About the FMS:
    • 48% of the errors involve an error of trajectory follow-up during departure,

    • 78% involve a bad coordination between the crew members,

    • FMS errors have twice more chance to be notified by Air Traffic Control than by the crew member.
Years after years the picture unfortunately is the same...

Even though the industry the industry is obviously becoming safer, the number of accident is relatively stable.

It seems a paradox, but we must consider the constant increase in traffic -about 5% every year in average-).

If the world accident rate is rather stable (see the table below), there are a lot of differences according to the respective part of the world.

The following table shows the western built accidents (per million of departures) according to the part of the world.

Part of the world 1994-2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
United States
or Canada
0.4   0.49 0.09 0.58 0.41
Latin America
and Caribbean
2.4   1.81 1.61 2.55 0
Europe 0.7   0.32 .029 0.42 0.45
Africa 12.3   4.31 4.09 2.12 9.94
Middle East 2.7   0.0 1.08 1.89 3.32

Community of
Independent States
(ex Russia)

(1)   8.6 0 6.43 0
China 0.5   0 0.88 0 0
Asia (except China) 1.7   0.67 2.76 0.58 0.86
Oceania 0   0 0 0  
World 0.74 0.77 0.65 0.75 0.81 0.71

(1) insufficient fleet experience to generate reliable rate

A last but positive comment!
For every event accident or serious incident we forget the very large number of normal operations which succeed to transport the passengers or cargo to their intended destination.

In commercial aviation, the nowadays accident rate is one fatal accident for every 2 millions of departures (between 1970 and 2003, fatal accident number was divided by 6, from 3 accidents to 0,5 for every millions of departures).

Nevertheless, the negative impact on public and the injured or dead passengers, deserve we work more hard to cut this statistic.


Frank Caron, August 2010.

quick links

5 steps to convince about safety

Why air safety improvement is too slow (organisation)?

Why air safety improvement is too slow (culture)?

Why training is the main solution to human factors issues

Human factors still the current challenge of the industry

No limits for the understanding of human factors

Suggestions for a discipline committee

Too long briefings

Current CRM have reach its limits

Aviation safety international legal definitions

Two statements about fatigue every manager must know