Sunday, November 08, 2009

Flight Death Statistics

By: Lavana James

South African aviation authorities are bringing new innovative methods to the table in an effort to spare the industry another killer month. The sector got some really bad press in October, with seventeen accidents claiming close on thirty deaths, making it the deadliest month for aviation in South Africa.

Killer October takes its toll

To put these incomparably high figures into perspective, only 8 accidents were recorded for the full twelve months of last year, but 2006 was regarded as one of the blackest years in aviation as there were over 50 accidents involving light aircrafts.

The Civil Aviation Authority has earmarked factors that are largely responsible for this frightening increase in flight fatalities, with pilot errors and gaping holes in training being the primary culprits. Other contributing factors are:
Poor pilot attitude - over-confidence being a major issue
Pilots neglecting to take the weather into account
Unnecessarily low flying
Pilots having inadequate or no pre-flight training
Aircraft overloading
The flagrant disregard of standard or safe operational procedures
CAA seeks solutions

Fortunately, all of these problem areas can be adequately addressed and the CAA is doing just that. A Central Aviation Strategic Initiative Committee has been set up with industry heavyweights to address and seek solutions for the high accident rate.

Their most recent offering is a DVD that clearly outlines the common mistakes made by crew that have resulted in accidents. The main aim of the committee is to furnish pilots with adequate skills and resources so that they are able to make the right decisions in an emergency.

Light, fixed-wing aircraft most vulnerable

What is interesting is that every single one of these accidents has taken place in light aircrafts. In fact, the last South African Airways casualty was the ill-fated Helderberg in November 1987. Prior to that only three other accidents were recorded:
April 1954 when a de Havilland Comet went down in the Mediterranean Sea
March 1967 in East London, when a Vickers Viscount crashed
April 1968 when a Boeing 707 went down near Windhoek
Only 2 deaths attributed to helicopters

It is important to differentiate that, of the 17 accidents recorded in the month of October, only five of them involved helicopters and only two of these accidents resulted in death. Not one of these accidents occurred in the Western Cape.

A game ranger fell to his death from a Jet Ranger
A pilot died when he flew his Raven 44 into power lines
A Robinson R22 was damaged when the tail rotor hit an anthill during training
An Alloette II went down when the trainee pilot lost control on landing
A Robinson R44 was damaged in training when there was a loss of tail motor thrust
Statistics have revealed it is far safer to enjoy helicopter flips in and around Cape Town than it is to fly in fixed-wing aircrafts, so make for the whirly bird instead.

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