Last year my introduction to the BEA 2016 Annual Report closed with the words: I hope that 2017 will, by application of the motto “Safety Together”, be the best year possible !
2017 is considered to be the best year ever in safety terms for air transport globally, with no major accidents involving jumbo jets. Pending publication of the official figures by the ICAO, some independent analysts are suggesting accident rates of around one fatalpassenger aircraft accident per 7 million departures. It is worth comparing this rate with figures from twenty years ago, when there was around one fatal accident per million departures.
Numerous studies in the early 1990s showed that, if safety levels stayed constant, we could expect around one air disaster per week in the 21st century, taking account of the expected growth in air traffic. This was obviously considered unacceptable. Vast programmes were therefore launched to improve safety. The actions taken include better recognition of human factors, and the introduction by organisations (airlines, maintenance bodies, etc.) of safety management systems.
Action was also taken on many fronts at global, European and national level as regards safety investigations: most investigation bodies
have now become “independent safety investigation authorities” with an obligation to publish a report on every accident or serious incident. The organisations to which their recommendations are addressed generally have an obligation to respond, stating what measures they are planning to take, or setting out the reasons why they have decided not to take any. At European level, Regulation (EU) No 996/2010 made these changes mandatory for all Member States and, within the ENCASIA network, the Member States’ investigation authorities are setting up mutual support systems to improve their management of major accidents.
Obviously we cannot take the excellent air safety figures for 2017 for granted: complacency should not be allowed to creep in. Nor can we give the credit for these figures to any particular action taken in the past few years. Air safety is the outcome of the actions of all players collectively within the aviation community. The BEA has its part to play, through both the investigations it conducts itself and its participation in the investigations conducted by its foreign counterparts into events involving aircraft operated from or built in France.
In 2017 the BEA decided to draw up a strategic plan to enable it to continue playing its role as effectively as possible in the feedback loop. The plan is split into several project areas, which are designed in particular to address current changes, and most importantly the significant increase in the number of aircraft globally that were built in France. The BEA strategic plan, covering the period 2018-2022, will be presented in more detail in the conclusion to this report.
At the time of publication of this annual report, there have been several major commercial air transport accidents throughout the world. The figures, even for only part of the year, already contrast with those for 2017. Everyone involved in aviation, including the BEA, must therefore keep working hard to improve air safety together.
Director of BEA