Europe suffered just one fatal commercial air transport accident in 2016, although the number of serious incidents, at 106, was up 35% from the 10-year average, EASA has revealed in its annual safety review.
A Bombardier CRJ200 cargo flight operated by West Air Sweden in January 2016 constituted the only fatal accident of the year, which is roughly in line with long-term trends. In contrast, there were 55 fatal accidents involving non-commercial aircraft and helicopters during 2016.
“The fatal accident involving a cargo flight in Sweden that took place in January highlighted the complex nature of aviation safety and the significance of addressing human factor aspects in further reducing accidents,” said EASA’s executive director, Patrick Ky.
As usual EASA identified a number of key risk areas, of which the most dangerous in the past decade have been loss of aircraft control, terrain collision and airborne collision.
But while such incidents were the most likely to have lethal consequences, EASA also took a detailed look at the causes of serious incidents.
Inadequate airborne separation has been the most common cause of serious incidents (42) over the past five years, followed, somewhat unexpectedly, by gastrointestinal illness (34).
Aircraft maintenance was behind just nine serious incidents from 2012-2016, roughly the same number as those stemming from the handling of go-arounds, which is a fair tribute to the professionalism of the European MRO sector.
Furthermore, maintenance wasn’t involved in any fatal accidents over the past five years, although it was behind five non-fatal accidents, which put it on a par with windshear as a cause.
Interestingly, for all the media attention on drones, EASA identified zero incidents or accidents involving strikes from unmanned aerial systems between 2012 and 2016.