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EU Blacklist likely to be a 'blunt weapon' in the fight to ensure passenger safety

London, January 13, 2005 -- After four straight years of declining death rates, the global airline industry in 2005 suffered a dramatic rise in passenger fatalities. In what could be called a 'return to normal', last year 913 passengers were killed in 19 accidents on paid passenger flights. The big increase in fatalities over the past year contrasts sharply with 2004 when the industry achieved its safest year ever, with just 11 fatal accidents and 347 passenger deaths. But according to London-based aerospace consultancy Airclaims, even with such a dramatic rise in fatalities and a spate of accidents last summer, 2005 now goes on record as the fourth safest year since 1946. Moreover, says Airclaims, the number of fatal accidents in 2005 matches exactly the number forecast by long-term trends.

"The industry experienced a series of exceptionally 'safe' years between 2001 and 2004," says Paul Hayes, director of Safety with Airclaims. "But even with its higher number of fatalities, 2005 is far more typical of the steady trend of improving air safety than it is of the sudden reduction in accidents we saw in 2001 to 2004."

With more and more people flying every year, the industry must keep getting safer just to keep the number of accidents from increasing. In this high growth climate, reducing the number of accidents is not easy, but it is happening. In the years 1995 to 2000, worldwide, the fatal accident rate was one in every 1.25 million flights. For the period 2001 to 2005 it had improved to one every two million flights. In fact, the figures just released by Airclaims in its annual Special Bulletin on Airline Safety show that in 2005, the majority of deaths (718) occurred in just eight fatal accidents on western-built jets, which carry approximately 90% of world-wide traffic.

According to Airclaims, the industry’s improvement in safety is attributable to many factors, including a better understanding of the underlying causes of accidents, new technology, better knowledge of how humans perform and, importantly, a spreading ‘safety culture.’

No support for Blacklisting

While policy-makers certainly have an important role to play in fostering a culture of safety in air travel, the EU's proposed aviation blacklist belies the complexity of all the issues involved, says Hayes, an air safety expert. The EU Blacklist, agreed in December by the European Parliament and expected to be operational by next month, Hayes argues, is a heavy weapon but unlikely to deliver the security that the travelling public seeks. "Passengers are right to expect a common level of safety between airlines competing on the same route. But since the new blacklist fails to offer any mechanism to ensure a good understanding of safety levels being achieved by different airlines, it will fall far short of its intended goal," he says.

"We worry that the blacklist is more a political response to public outcry to the deaths of Europeans on foreign airlines than any real, effective measure to help the airline industry move forward more quickly on improving safety. Our analysis clearly shows that most accidents are caused by a complex series of circumstances and events which are in practice almost impossibel to quantify. Blacklisting based on a narrow set of checks is never going to be the answer."

Notes to Editors: All data has been extracted from Airclaims Special Bulletin which includes immediate briefings on all major accidents, quarterly updates and an end-of-year review. Airclaims ( is one of the world’s most respected providers of accident information and statistics with comprehensive and accurate data sources going back over 60 years. Airclaims is one of the partners in a major European Commission-backed initiative designed to improve aviation safety -- Aviation Safety Improvement using Cost Benefit Analysis (ASICBA), a two-year project designed to aid the prioritisation of options for safety investment. Read more at

A graph representing death rates from 1946 to 2005 is available from Tannissan Mae.
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nancy prendergast


kate hammer

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