ATSB analysis shows that an increase in reported airline accident and incident data since 2001 is mainly due to industry expansion, and the rates of many types of occurrence have fallen.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau research report covered more serious airline Immediately Reportable Matters in the 5 years from mid 2001 to mid 2006.
Despite the increased activity in scheduled public transport operations, the number of Immediately Reportable Matters has generally either remained stable or declined. When measured in relation to airline activity, the trend rate is generally downwards.
Violations of controlled airspace involve aircraft entering controlled or restricted airspace without appropriate clearances from air traffic control. There was a total of 82 airspace violations recorded over 5 years, and the ATSB found a downward trend for these incidents.
A breakdown of separation occurs when the distance between aircraft is less than that required. In many cases where separation breaks down the aircraft will still be some considerable distance apart. Of the 462 incidents recorded, only two per cent were serious enough to warrant further investigation by the ATSB. Breakdown of separation events have become more common, but only at about the same rate that airline activity has increased.
Other incidents examined by the ATSB include reports of crew incapacitation and cabin fumes. Serious crew injury or illness was rare, supporting the findings from an earlier study by the ATSB. The ATSB also received 140 notifications of fumes. Sources of fumes included oil or solvent residues following maintenance activities, failed or overheated electrical or mechanical components, or passenger’s luggage. Smoke or fumes from burning food in the galley was also common.
The ATSB confirmed that accidents in Australian regular public transport operations are extremely rare. Only one accident involved fatalities, with the loss of all 15 people on board a regional airliner near Lockhart River. All other accidents were limited to damage to the aircraft, including damage to aircraft by service vehicles before flight, or injury to crew or passengers, including from unexpected turbulence during a flight. (ATSB)