Canadian aviation accident statistics and analysis
Charter air service has higher death rate than any other BC industry.
by Kirsten Stevens
From '89-'98 BC pilots had a death rate more than double that of loggers (with an average of about 5 death per year), and that 9 working pilots (Arnie Feast, Wesley Payne, Geoff Smulders, Mike Bracht, Mike Black, Duncan Ruth, Clayton Shearcroft, Simon Piper, Trevor Hardy) had died in '05 — nearly doubling that death rate.
The stat source for the '89-'98 death rates can be found in this WorkSafe BC publication. If you check out the graphs on page 7 (this page also explains how death rates are calculated), they show that although there were more deaths in the logging industry, the death rate per 10,0000 person-years is 9.3 for loggers. The only industry that exceeds that is the air charter service, with a death rate of 21.5.
According to page 25:
Logging is typically thought of as the most dangerous industry in BC, but the charter air service industry actually had a higher death rate than any other BC industry from 1989 to 1998. For every 10,000 people working in a 1-year period, 21.5 people died. Part of the reason for this is that aircraft crashes tend to involve several workers — for example, a pilot, co-pilot, and flight attendant — whereas other accidents usually involve a single individual.
It is worth noting that the death rate for charter air service is based only on workers directly employed in that industry and does not include workers from other industries who are also killed in aircraft crashes. For every air service worker killed in a crash, there may be several other workers employed in other industries — loggers, mechanics, tree planters — who also lose their lives.
Take a look at a comparison of Canada, USA and Mexico's Civil Aviation Accident Statistics from 2000-2004. If you scroll down to Slide 8, you will see the comparison of Air Taxi Accident Rates - and if you average those rates, you will find that Canada's accident rate is about 7.72, Mexico's 7.53 and the USA's 2.38.
Scroll down a little farther to Slide 11, and you will find that Canada's General Aviation Accident Rates were consistently about twice that of both the USA and Mexico.
In 2001, a European Community contribution to world aviation safety improvement said this:
2. Another significant feature of the global accident picture is that accident rates vary considerably across different regions of the world. A summary of data for the 5-year period to the end of 1997 for world regions is shown in Annex 1.
A number of conclusions can be drawn from these statistics:
* Airlines from Africa, Asia and South/Central America have accident rates at least twice as high as the world average, (in 1998 four times higher in the case of Africa and six times higher in China).
* North America has a rate much better than the world average.
* Western European countries, together with Australia, have the lowest accident rates.
* Eastern European countries including the CIS states, have a very high accident rate, nearly 50 times higher than in western Europe, and higher than in any other world region.
A study that Australia did in 2006 compared their safety record with that of the world. So, now that we know that Western European countries, Australasia and the US, all have better accident rates than Canada's. Do we really have the right to keep proclaiming that "we have one of the safest aviation systems in the world"?
From the Transportation Safety Board of Canada's Annual Report 2007/08:
Canadian-registered aircraft, other than ultralights, were involved in 284 reported accidents in 2007, an 8 percent increase from the 2006 total of 262 and a 6 percent increase from the 2002-2006 average of 268.
The estimate of flying activity for 2007 is 4 373,000 hours, yielding an accident rate of 6.5 accidents per 100,000 flying hours, up from the 2006 rate of 6.3 but down from the five-year rate of 6.7.
Canadian-registered aircraft, other than ultralights, were involved in 33 fatal occurrences with 49 fatalities in 2007, comparable to the 31 fatal occurrences with 52 fatalities in 2006 and the five-year average of 30 fatal occurrences with 50 fatalities. A total of 12 fatal occurrences involved commercial aircraft (7 aeroplanes and 5 helicopters), and 14 of the remaining 21 fatal occurrences involved privately operated aeroplanes.
The number of accidents involving ultralights increased to 30 in 2007 from 28 in 2006, and the number of fatal accidents increased to 5 in 2007 from 1 in 2006.
The number of foreign-registered aircraft accidents in Canada decreased to 10 in 2007 from 14 in 2006. There were no fatal accidents in 2007, down from 2 in 2006.
In 2007, a total of 874 incidents were reported to the TSB in accordance with the mandatory reporting requirements. This represents a 6 per cent increase from the 2006 total of 825 and a 3 percent increase from the 2002-2006 average of 851.
Following the "rash" of air taxi accident in BC in 2005/06, Transport Canada initiated a "full review" of the industry. The results of that review were recently published in this government civil aviation study:
The SATOPS Task Force developed 71 recommendations, most of which have been implemented. Following that, the accident rate in the air taxi sector improved. This study found that several of the hazards identified during SATOPS were not present now. It cannot be stated that SATOPS lowered the accident rate, but it is likely that SATOPS, the transition from the Air Navigation Orders to the Canadian Aviation Regulations, and other progress in the industry, combined to better manage risks and lower the accident rate.
Six hazard and risk factors isolated in the SATOPS study were seen in the potential factors in the current study:
Deficiency in TC-industry communication;
Inadequacies in inspection activities;
Inadequacies in training regulations;
and Worker fatigue.
Subject matter experts should reassess the risks associated with these factors once they have been substantiated through other data sources.
Considering that flight training services make up a large percentage of the annual accident statistics, and that: "Before 1999, flight training services were classified as air taxi but are now classified in the private/corporate/state aeroplane category. " (Source: Transportation Safety Board)
One cannot help but wonder if air taxi accident rates have IN FACT improved. Has this change been recognized in the analysis? The graphs also indicate that, despite a significant decrease in the number of registered aircraft in this sector over the last several years, there has not been a corresponding decrease in accidents.
Furthermore, the statement that most of the SATOPs recommendations have been implemented does not match the analysis done in this AVCanada forum and in the ensuing threads.
We know that the TSB does not thoroughly investigate all accidents (fatal or otherwise), that TC does not necessarily investigate those not investigated by TSB, and that despite the SATOPs recommendation, management factors which may have contributed to an accident are often NOT reported. Furthermore, as Transport Canada is not effectively managing its Occupational Health and Safety obligations, accidents are seldom investigated for infringements of the Canada Labour Code and related regulations.
Knowing what we know about previous TCCA studies, and the information gathered which was then hidden from public view (e.g., DMR Report), how can we help but believe lessons have not been learned?
Kirsten Stevens is the widow of Dave Stevens, who was among five people who died on the job in a 2005 floatplane accident.
Posted: June 11, 2008
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