Aviation safety: We made a mistake and learned, or did we?



Before Jakke’s post on aviation safety we had a discussion on the likelihood of airlines documenting accidents on their web sites. I think it would be a good thing to actually show when mistakes are made. It would be especially good to show what has been learned and how the organization has responded to improve safety. That being said, we all thought that no info would be available.

To complement Jakke’s findings I searched for the most recent fatal and non-fatal accident for  a semi-random collection of airlines. I then made an attempt to find information (or at least some reference) to those accidents on the web pages of the respective airlines. I mainly used Wikipedia as a source of accident dates since it is easy to use, fairly trustworthy and also lists non-fatal accidents for many airlines. If nothing was found for an airline, I tried googling a bit to check if it was likely that there had actually been no accidents. Altogether I went through info on 46 airlines.

Contrary to what we thought, information is  available. Sometimes cases that took place before ARPANET was functional can be found. In the figure below, each of the accidents I found is shown with a dot at the year it happened. The count goes up each time I was able to find the accident in the web site of the airline. As can be seen, most of the references were found when the accident date was after the year 2000 (steep slope at the end). This is natural if the web site is not considered to be a repository.

In 37 cases I found a fatal accident related to an airline, and in 10 of those cases there was a reference to that accident in the web site. This may not sound like much, but it was much more that I believed it would be. But, and there is a but, this info was not meant for customers. It isn’t very in-depth info either. It is mostly a short paragraph in a financial statement or a press release. In the figure below from left the pillars are: number of airlines that were checked for a known accident, number of airlines that had a reference to the accident, number of cases where the reference was in a financial statement, number of cases where the reference was in a press release and number of cases where the reference was somewhere else on the web site.

While I’m kind of happy that there is honesty about the fact that there are accidents and incidents, I’m disappointed at the level of technical info released. For example in only one case did I find a link to the accident investigation report, here.

While I was looking for this info I also made some other notes related to this subject, and will write more about them in another post.

Some more info and less opinions is available here, and the spreadsheet I used can be seen here. This post is part of our “Is aviation safety a shameful thing?” project.