Global airline accidents snapshot for 2008 to 23 December

By David Leamount

An assessment of global airline crashes for 2008 at 23 December shows a considerable rise in the number of fatal accidents, but a fall in the number of resulting deaths.

This squares with the International Air Transport Association's snapshot of the year to 1 December, in which it revealed that airline safety has stopped improving, although IATA's figures are based on jet hull-loss accidents, and not all of these involve fatalities.

Flightglobal's safety snapshot for the year to 23 December shows 33 fatal airline accidents, whereas the whole of 2007 produced only 25, which was an all time low.

But this year to 23 December has seen only 589 fatalities worldwide compared with the 744 recorded by the end of 2007.

A lot can happen in eight days, however. Flightglobal will review global airline safety for the entire year 2008 during the last week of January 2009, together with an analysis of trends, lessons learned, and industry concerns.

In this year to 23 December there were six fatal accidents involving scheduled jet airliners in which a total of 349 people died.

There were three fatal crashes involving chartered aircraft, killing a total of 49 (none of these was a holiday charter and none involved jets).

The commuter and regional airlines worldwide suffered 8 fatal accidents killing 129 people, but the commercial air transport category in which most fatal accidents occurred was non-passenger operations.

The latter includes cargo flights, but also positioning flights and test flights after maintenance. In 2008 to 23 December there were 16 accidents in this category, killing 62 people.

The year's worst single accident so far was the 20 August Spanair Boeing MD-82 crash during take-off at Madrid Barajas airport Spain, which followed failure of the crew to set the flaps to the take-off setting combined with the failure of the onboard alerting system that is supposed to warn them the aircraft was not correctly configured for take-off.

All six crew died in the accident, and 154 of the 166 passengers. There have been some serious accidents that, fortunately, were survived by all on board.

Among these were the 17 January British Airways Boeing 777 crash-landing short of the runway at London Heathrow airport, the November Ryanair 737-800 which was badly damaged by a heavy landing at Rome Ciampino airport after hitting a huge flock of starlings on final approach, and the Continental Airlines 737-500 that ran off the runway at Denver airport, USA on 20 December during the pilots' attempt to abort the take-off.


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