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More large aircraft deaths in 2020 than 2019, despite COVID

written by Adam Thorn | January 4, 2021

Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister following the release of a preliminary report into the downing of PS752.

More people died on large passenger aircraft in 2020 than 2019 – despite COVID-19 groundings.

New analysis from aviation consultancy About To70 reveals there were 299 fatalities from 40 accidents last year, compared to 257 fatalities 86 accidents.

To70’s civil aviation safety review examined accidents only relating to “large passenger aircraft used by most travellers”.

It included all contributory factors, including those related to technical and human performance or environmental conditions. It also included “unlawful interference events” such as the shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner.

“Three of the five fatal accidents in 2020 and several of the non-fatal ones relate to aeroplanes that left the paved surface of the runway,” To70 explained. “Following the trend of other runway excursions these events have been contributed to by events leading up to the final approach and landing.

“The Turkish accident in February and the Indian one in August both occurred in heavy rain. The latter also, reportedly, landed with a strong tailwind. The accident in Pakistan in May followed an initial hard landing and go-around that appears to have damaged the engines, resulting in the undershoot on the subsequent approach.”

In total, in 2020, there were 40 accidents, five of which were fatal, resulting in 299 fatalities, compared to 86 accidents, 8 of which were fatal, resulting in 257 fatalities, in 2019.


“Flight performance calculations made prior to the approach and the timely use of the go-around manoeuvre remain key factors in accidents and more must be done to understand the role of the human and the technology in these situations as the truism that ‘no-one gets out of bed thinking that they are going to have an accident today’,” To70 concluded.

“Stable approaches remain a key success factor in successful landings and require all Airline, ANSP and Airport stakeholders to collaborate in what is a crucial phase of flight and more must be done to ensure this is effective. The last of the four fatal accidents is one that will be excluded from official statistics as it was ‘unlawful interference’; the shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner above Tehran in January.”

Last year, the International Air Transport Association predicted the world’s airlines would lose a total of $157 billion throughout 2020 and 2021 due to COVID.

“That’s by far the biggest shock the industry has experienced in the post-World War II years,” IATA chief economist Brian Pearce said.


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