Flying by aircraft becomes safer with every year that passes. This can be concluded from the annual statistical data published by relevant international organizations and associations in the field of air traffic and transport.


The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) recently published its latest global aviation safety report. According to the data in the report, the aviation industry in 2021 records a decrease in the number of aircraft accidents by 9.8% compared to 2020; the number of fatalities in aircraft accidents is 66% lower at an annual level. The decrease in these numbers becomes even more significant if you take into account the fact that the total number of commercial passenger flights globally in 2021 marks an increase of 11% compared to 2020. Such significant improvements in aviation safety are the result of the joint efforts, activities, and achievements of all aviation industry entities.


In fact, the general aviation trend in all past years of its global development shows that flying by aircraft today is safer than ever before. According to a study by Harvard University in the USA, flying by aircraft in the USA, Europe, and Australia is significantly safer than driving a car. The probability of experiencing an accident or a serious incident during an aircraft flight is 1:1.2 million, and the probability that the accident will be fatal is 1:11 million. On the other hand, the probability of losing your life in a car accident on the roads of these three continents is significantly higher, at 1:5,000.


The study conducted at the Technological Institute in Massachusetts in the USA in 2020 shows a significant improvement and promotion of the safety of air passengers during the past decades. In the period from 2008 to 2017, the number of fatalities of passengers was significantly smaller in comparison with the previous decade. Namely, in that period, the fatality rate of air carriers globally equals one life lost in 7.9 million passengers transported by aircraft, compared to the same rate in the period from 1998 to 2007, when it amounted to one fatality in 2.7 million air passengers. If you go back through time, the trend becomes clearer: in the period from 1988 until 1997, the observed rate is one victim in 1.3 million, in the period from 1978 until 1987 one victim in 750,000 and in the period between 1968 and 1977 one victim in 350,000 transported passengers.


If the data from the study are analyzed in more detail, certain “geographical differences” can be noted, which means that the fatality rate varies depending on the geographical position of the countries. The countries, in which the passengers can use the services of air carriers with the lowest risk are Europe, the USA, China, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Israel. In these countries, the fatality rate in the period from 2008 until 2017 amounts to one human victim in 33.1 million air passengers, which is a 4 times lower rate than the global average. On the other hand, higher-risk air carriers are coming from developing countries, mostly from Asia, Africa, and South America. In these geographic areas, the fatality rate in the last decade is 6 and a half times higher than the average rate at the global level and amounts to one victim in 1.2 million passengers. However, in these territories there is also a significant improvement in aviation safety culture, taking into account the fact that in the period from 1998 until 2007 the fatality rate was one victim per 400 000 air passengers.


Numerous factors contribute to the significant improvement of aviation safety in the last few years, which today enable the operation of air transport in a safe environment. The flight and cabin crew in the aircraft, the air traffic controllers, the professional personnel at the airports, the personnel working on the manufacturing and maintenance of aircraft, maintenance of the navigation systems, control and management of air traffic, provision of meteorological services, distribution of aeronautical information, flight planning, oversight of the entities in the aviation industry – all together cooperate daily and continuously, in order to enable safe traveling by aircraft.


When you are in the aircraft, you can be sure that you fly with highly trained, experienced, checked, and certified pilots. So, for example, in the USA pilots should have a minimum of 1,500 hours of flight time, before they can work in the commercial air transport of passengers. That amounts to almost nine weeks of continuous flying. The standards in other countries are similar. The cabin crew in the aircraft is also of essential importance for the safety of the aircraft and the passengers and therefore the greatest part of their professional training is related to maintaining the safety, comfort, and convenience of the passengers in the aircraft.


To complete the picture of the safest type of traffic and transport in the world, in addition to all this is the safety of the aircraft itself. The modern, fast, dynamic, and sustainable technical and technological achievements in the field of information technology, mechanical engineering, aerodynamics, motor engineering, and the use of alternative fuels and composite construction materials, have enabled significant progress of aircraft as means of transport, reducing and minimizing the risks of human error during their exploitation. There is no operational aircraft system related to aviation safety that is not duplicated, and often tripled, as an independent system in the design, manufacture, and exploitation of modern aircraft. New types of aircraft, which are produced every day, are lighter, quieter, more manageable, more equipped, more maneuverable, with a higher capacity, lower fuel consumption, and with lower emission of exhaust gases. In a word, safer.


Moreover, the ultimate criteria in aviation are the established standards and recommended practices, prescribed by conventions, regulations, directives, agreements, declarations, and memoranda by the relevant international organizations, which have to be transposed and implemented in the national legislation of all member states. From the point of view of international cooperation and regulation, today, globally, there is a hardly more regulated and unified field than aviation. On the other hand, organizations such as FAA (Federal Aviation Authorities), EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency), ECAC (European Civil Aviation Conference), EUROCONTROL, and other regulatory agencies, perform continuous oversight of all aviation activities of the aviation industry entities on a global level. The criteria, requirements, and conditions, which have to be met and delivered by the aviation industry entities, are getting stricter every day, regardless of whether they refer to aircraft, personnel, infrastructure, facilities, systems, installations, maintenance, information, training, security, or oversight. The ultimate goal is for everyone who embarks on the aircraft to be safe and feel safe.


September 2022



Tomislav Tuntev, Ph.D.

CAA Director General