The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said yesterday it would “leave nothing unturned” to boost global aviation safety after a black week for the industry that has claimed over 460 lives in three separate crashes.
IATA represents 240 airlines around the world that account for 84 percent of total air traffic.
“With three tragedies in such quick succession, many people will, understandably, be asking questions about aviation safety,” IATA director-general Tony Tyler said in a statement.
“The greatest respect that we can pay to the memory of those involved is to leave nothing unturned in our quest to understand the cause and to take steps to ensure that it is not repeated.”
“Our number one priority is safety, and despite the events of the past seven days, flying is safe,” he added.
Tyler’s comments came at the end of a disastrous week for the aviation industry. On July 17, a Malaysia Airlines jet crashed in rebel-held eastern Ukraine, believed downed by a surface-to-air missile, killing all 298 people on board. A Taiwanese aircraft crashed in torrential rain on Penghu on Wednesday, killing 48 aboard and injuring 10.
On Friday, the wreckage of an Air Algerie plane bound for Algier from Burkina Faso with at least 116 people aboard was found in Mali’s Gossi region, a day after it went missing.
Tyler said the number of fatalities from aviation incidents this year had surpassed the 210 deaths seen last year.
“But even so, getting on an aircraft is still among the safest activities that one can do,” he said. “Safeguarding our customers from harm as we transport them around the world is core to the mission of the aviation industry.”
Less than one in 2 million flights last year ended in an accident in which the plane was damaged beyond repair, according to the IATA. That includes accidents involving cargo and charter airlines as well as scheduled passenger flights.
“One of the things that makes me feel better when we look at these events is that if they all were the same type event or same root cause then you would say there’s a systemic problem here, but each event is unique in its own way,” said Jon Beatty, president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation, an airline industry-supported nonprofit organization in the US that promotes global aviation safety.
However, Beatty said he also finds the disaster cluster “a cold reminder” that airline accidents are likely to increase because the industry is growing, especially in developing countries. The more flights there are, the more potential for accidents, he said.
Global aviation leaders are set to meet in Montreal next week to initiate discussions on a plan to address safety and security issues raised by the downing of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, an aviation official said late on Thursday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly by name.
Together, the disasters have the potential to push airline fatalities this year to over 700 — the most since 2010, and the year is still barely half over.
Aviation is “fundamentally safe and getting safer, but it can always fall prey to the mistakes or ill will of man,” former US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief counsel Kenneth Quinn said. “We sometimes forget the magic of flight, or the fragility of life, but this week has brought home the need to appreciate this more and protect both better.”
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