The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) examined aviation occurrence statistics from the past decade and found that technical-related occurrences—attributable to both design and maintenance—are the third-most-frequently cited cause of incidents and accidents in commercial aviation. Environmental and operational-related occurrences rank first and second, respectively, and airspace- and infrastructure-related occurrences happen less often.
Technical-related occurrences accounted for 20% of all reported accidents and incidents in Australia over the past 10 years.
Out of the 9,019 technical-related occurrences reported between 2007-16, 50% of those were attributed to “systems,” 27% to airframe and 23% to powerplant. In 2016, 898 incidents and accidents were attributed to technical-related causes, compared to 891 in 2015 and a 10-year high of 1048 in 2012. The trend of technical occurrences has stayed relatively flat as compared to environmental and operational trends, especially given the increase in air travel over the last decade.
In addition, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) proclaims 2017 as the safest in recent history for large, commercial aircraft. Last year saw seven fatal accidents and 63 fatalities—down from a high of 2,365 fatalities in 1972. These statistics come from preliminary data EASA released in anticipation of its annual safety report
EASA’s Annual Safety Review—generally published in the summer months—draws heavily from its occurrence database to formulate the European Plan for Aviation Safety (EPAS). The five-year plan includes a set of action items that are continually reviewed and improved, based on safety issues brought to light through data analysis. The EPAS is created in consultation with member states and industry, and is a key component to EASA’s safety management system.