How does the Aviation Industry Manage Flight Safety?

Flight safety is an important issue in the aviation industry. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), flights are the safest form of long-distance transport.

In pre-pandemic 2018 approximately 4.3 billion passengers flew safely on over 46 million flights. On average, in 2018, the fatal accident rate was 0.28 per million flights. This translates to one fatal accident per 4.2 million flights. This roughly averages out to 11 fatal accidents in the year. One could argue that this is still relatively small given the number of flights that took place. However, some may feel that this figure is still too high.

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According to the IATA, aviation is the safest mode of long-distance transport. | © IATA

UK Flight Safety Standards

So how does the industry keep safe? Clearly, even though there were, on average, 11 accidents in 2018, this is comparatively few when taking into consideration that there were 46 million flights. This means that flight safety is relatively good. This suggests somewhat that the regulations that are already in place are effective. In the UK, for example, the chances of having a fatal accident by plane are less than the chance of being struck by lightning. So how does the UK aviation industry manage flight safety?

In the UK, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) demands the highest standards and regulatory oversight in all aspects of commercial aviation flight safety. Pilots maintenance, air traffic controllers etc., need to hold the highest level of licences and approvals. The Civil Aviation Authority spends a long time inspecting all areas of airlines’ operations and constantly liaises with them to improve standards and therefore improve flight safety.

The CAA also bans airlines from the UK that are considered unsafe or do not have sufficient oversight from their country’s oversight boards. The UK Government draws up this list in consultation with the CAA. The European Union has a similar list that the European Commission draws up.

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In the UK, the chances of a fatal accident are less than the chance of being struck by lightning. | © Andrea Ongaro/Travel Radar

Global Flight Safety Standards

In terms of global aviation, a United Nations body called the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) sets basic international regulations governing flight safety. National regulators then incorporate these regulations into their own bodies before implementing them in their countries, possibly adding to them to make aviation in their countries safer.

The ICAO has 193 countries that cooperate through it to improve flight safety standards. They have a target of zero fatalities by 2030. In addition, they aim to strengthen their regulatory capacities, meaning that they will improve their ability to manage flight safety in the airlines that operate in their countries.

The countries also cooperate to produce a range of programs and targets that cover global air safety planning, oversight, and risk mitigation. This means that the ICAO provides an opportunity for countries to cooperate in improving flight safety, providing oversight to ensure flight safety standards are met and reducing any inherent risks (risks that can’t be completely avoided). These countries are also working together to enable the safety standardization needed to integrate improvements in aeroplane technology whilst maintaining and improving the network’s overall performance.

Flight safety is managed at a national level and through international cooperation through a United Nations body, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Rules and Regulations made by the ICAO are then taken by national bodies such as the UK Civil Aviation Authority, incorporated into their national rules, and then implemented on a national level. Additions may also be made by national bodies in order to improve aviation safety.

The aim of the ICAO is to have no fatalities by 2030. This is a good aim, as some may feel that 11 accidents that took place in 2018 are 11 too many.

What do you think about this process? Do you think there is anything they could do to improve the safety record further? Let us know in the comments!

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Amuthan Chandrarajan
Amuthan Chandrarajan
Aviation Reporter - Amuthan has a background in residential and commercial real estate. He also has a keen interest in aviation and travel and has visited many countries. Amuthan has a sound knowledge of business and finance.  He has gained a Master of Business Administration and has become a Chartered Management Accountant.