Aviation Occurrence Statistics 2010 to 2019

The purpose of this report

Each year, thousands of safety occurrences involving Australian aircraft and foreign‑registered aircraft operating in Australia are reported to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB).

This report is part of a series that aims to provide information and statistical data to the aviation industry, manufacturers and policy makers, as well as to the travelling and general public, about these aviation safety occurrences. In particular, the data can be used to determine what can be learned to improve transport safety in the aviation sector.

The study uses information over the 10-year period from 2010–2019 to provide an insight into current and possible future trends in aviation safety.

This statistical report presents interactive web versions of all tables and graphs to allow the user to display aviation occurrence data in the format of their choice.

What the ATSB found

2019

In 2019, 220 aircraft were involved in accidents in Australia, with a further 154 aircraft involved in serious incidents (an incident with a high probability of becoming an accident). There were 35 fatalities from 22 fatal accidents. The number of fatalities was consistent with the average of the previous nine years (32.3 fatalities per year), and the number of fatal accidents was also consistent with its average (23.1 fatal accidents per year).

There have been no fatalities in scheduled commercial air transport in Australia since 2005.

2010 to 2019 accidents and incidents

Between 2010 and 2019, over 90 per cent of accidents and fatal accidents, and around 80 per cent of serious incidents, involved aircraft operating within the general aviation and recreational aviation sectors. In contrast, due to the more stringent reporting requirements for air transport operations, three‑quarters of reported incidents involved aircraft operating within commercial air transport.[1]

Considering all years in the period, the number of general aviation (GA) fatalities and fatal accidents decreased. The number of fatalities and fatal accidents within commercial air transport and recreation aviation remained relatively constant.

Since 2016, remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) have surpassed helicopters to become the second most common aircraft type involved in an accident. Further, the number of manned aircraft experiencing near encounters with an RPA also increased significantly over the study period.

2014 to 2018 accident rates

For the first time, statistics in this report have been organised around the type of aircraft activity being conducted, rather than the operational regulation. Due to the availability of activity data (departures and hours flown data), it was only possible to calculate accident and fatal accident rates over the five‑year period 2014–2018.

Over this period, test and ferry flights, recreational flights involving an aircraft registered with Recreational Aviation Australia (RAAus), followed by pleasure and personal transport, had the highest accident rates. Community services flights, followed closely by test and ferry flights, had the highest fatal accident rates. (However, as there was only one fatal accident involving an aircraft conducting community service flights between 2014 and 2018 there is a high level of statistical uncertainty associated with this rate). For aircraft types, recreational aeroplanes, followed by commercial balloons had the highest accident rates. Also, recreational aeroplanes had the highest fatal accident rate.

Commercial air transport

There were no fatalities within commercial air transport in 2019.

Over the full study period (2010–2019), more than half of all serious incidents and the majority of accidents and fatal accidents for commercial air transport operators involved aircraft conducting non‑scheduled activities, predominantly passenger transport charters. There were no identified increases or decreases in the number of accidents or serious incidents, however, the number of reported incidents for aircraft conducting scheduled international flights and commercial freight increased over the 10 years.

Between 2014 and 2018, around three‑quarters of the hours flown, and approximately one‑half of all departures, within commercial air transport, were operated by scheduled domestic or international operations. Over this period, there was a decrease in the hours flown by scheduled domestic operators; conversely, there was a proportionate increase in the hours for scheduled international operators.

Concerning activities within commercial air transport, passenger transport charters had the highest accident and fatal accident rates.

For specific aircraft types, within commercial air transport, balloons had an accident rate more than 10 times higher than for aeroplanes or helicopters. However, there was only one fatal accident involving a commercial balloon in the 2010 and 2019 timeframe.

Most commercial accidents and serious incidents were operational in nature (typically aircraft control and terrain collisions). The majority of incidents were environmental (mainly birdstrikes).

General aviation

In 2019, there were 17 fatalities in GA.

Over the 10 years, around one‑third of GA accidents and 44 per cent of fatal accidents involved aircraft conducting sport and pleasure flying. Aerial work accounted for a further 37 per cent of GA accidents and 32 per cent of fatal accidents. The number of GA accidents per year increased over the period, with aerial work identified as the primary contributor. Conversely, there was a decrease in the number of fatal accidents, resulting in a decrease of around one fatal accident or 1.4 fewer fatalities per year.

There was also an increase in the number of reported incidents for GA aircraft conducting instructional flying.

Between 2014 and 2018, around 40 per cent of GA hours flown were conducted within aerial work, with instructional flying accounting for a further 30 per cent. Sport and pleasure flying made up around 14 per cent.

The rate of GA accidents decreased over the five years 2014–2018. The main contributors to this decline were sport and pleasure flying, and own business travel. Additionally, there was also a decrease in the rate of fatal accidents for aircraft conducting sport and pleasure flying.

Between 2010 and 2019, there was an increase in the number of GA RPA accidents per year; this primarily resulted from a significant increase in the overall number of survey and photographic accidents.

Overall, there was a decrease in the accident rate for aeroplanes conducting GA flying. The main contributors to this decrease were identified as aeroplanes conducting sport and pleasure flying, and own business travel.

Over the 10 years, the majority of GA accidents, incidents and serious incidents were related to operational or technical issues. Additionally, the majority of fatal accidents were also attributable to operational issues.

Further, the number of GA operational-related accidents and serious incidents, per year, increased over the period. Instructional flying was the main contributor to this operational-related increase. Additionally, there was an increase in the number of accidents and serious incidents of a technical nature; largely attributable to aerial work operations (especially those conducted using an RPA).

Recreational aviation

In 2019, there were 18 fatalities involving an aircraft conducting recreational flying.

The accident rate for recreational flying decreased between 2014 and 2018, with Recreational Aviation Australia (RAAus) registered aircraft having the greatest contribution to this reduction.

Aeroplanes had the highest accident and fatal accident rates of any recreational aircraft type.

Similar to GA, over the full study period (10 years), the majority of recreational accidents and serious incidents were operational (mainly terrain collisions) or technical (primarily engine failure or malfunction) in nature.

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  1. Includes scheduled airline flying as well as non-scheduled passenger-carrying activities such as charter, medical transport, and joyflight/sightseeing flights, as well as freight.

Context

Data sources and submissions

Exposure data

Occurrences by activity

Occurrences by aircraft type

Occurrence types: what happened

Appendices

Glossary

Type: Statistical Publication
Publication date: 29 April 2020
Publication number: AR-2020-014
Last update 29 April 2020
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ATSB releases aviation occurrence statistics report