Comentario de Víctor Manuel Del Castillo:
“Todos los esfuerzos que se hagan en favor de la verdadera interpretación y aplicación de la Seguridad Operacional nos lo agradecerán los usuarios, las Autoridades Aeronáuticas y los responsables de las finanzas de las empresas de aviación”
Latin American Air-Safety Record Comes Into Focus
By ANDY PASZTOR
October 22, 2012
SANTIAGO, Chile (WSJ)-Latin America’s official air-safety scorecard, expected to be approved at a meeting here this week, shows more commercial-aircraft accidents in 2011 than in any other developing part of the world, though the region’s record has improved this year.
A Central American Airways plane crashed in the mountainous area in Las Mesitas, Honduras, in February 2011, killing all 14 people aboard.
A preliminary English-language version of the report says pilot errors and mechanical problems were big reasons the region had 15 airliner crashes last year and an overall accident rate that soared to roughly twice the global average, or nearly four times the North American rate. Only the notoriously dangerous airways and airports in Africa and the former Soviet Union recorded markedly higher rates of commercial-airline crashes.
Regional airline officials and regulators say they are making progress because there weren’t any fatal crashes involving big jetliners last year and overall safety statistics for 2012 so far show a marked improvement. There were fatalities in crashes involving smaller planes.
Last week, a TACA Airlines Airbus A321 with more than 150 people aboard blew some tires while landing on a wet runway in San Jose, Costa Rica, and then skidded down the strip ending with its nose perpendicular to the center line. There were no injuries.
Experts from the region, however, emphasize they see positive trends in the numbers. “Yes, we continue to have accidents, but we are definitely seeing improvement” since regional safety initiatives went into effect in 2008, Loretta Martin, regional director of the International Civil Aviation Organization, said in an interview on Friday. “We brought [airline] CEOs together,” she said, “telling them you need to make safety your No. 1 priority, and they have.”
Prepared under the auspices of the ICAO, an arm of the United Nations, the 2011 report paints a sobering picture of stubbornly high accident rates covering a broad range of commercial flights, including turboprops and non-Western built aircraft. It lists three more accidents in the region than in 2010 and five more than in 2009.
Based on the report, one in every roughly 250,000 commercial-airline flights in the Caribbean and Central and South America last year was involved in a serious accident-or an incident that resulted in damage serious enough to scrap the aircraft-a rate about 20% greater than the previous year.
Through the first nine months of this year, Latin American carriers have racked up substantially better statistics, rivaling those in many developed regions. But the lackluster 2011 performance-despite extensive initiatives by manufacturers, airlines and regulators to enhance safety-has prompted sharp criticism. Experts now worry the same shortcomings and hazards that traditionally made flying risky in the region could reappear as traffic grows quickly.
Among the hazards cited by experts: aircraft sliding off wet runways, confusion about automation causing pilots to lose control of planes in midair and the risk of aircraft slamming into the region’s mountainous terrain.
Especially worrisome is that the total number of accidents recorded last year was higher than the previous two years and slightly worse than the region’s average over the period 2008 to 2011, according to some experts. Safety analyses tend to focus on trends spanning big chunks of a decade, rather than a single year, to come up with definitive conclusions.
Critics say the 20011 statistics highlight continued shortcomings in government safety regulation, pilot training and investments to upgrade airports across much of the region. “The level of oversight continues to vary greatly from country to country, with some really not doing an adequate job,” according to Jim Hall, a former chairman of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates accidents.
Michael Barr, who teaches aviation-safety management at the University of Southern California said airlines in the region aren’t spending enough to improve their performance.
“Many Latin American carriers don’t see safety as an investment,” Mr. Barr said. “They still look at it as an extra cost.”
The comprehensive study, expected to be finalized at a meeting of the regional safety group that starts Monday, is the most authoritative look at the region’s safety performance.
Other issues to be discussed include enhanced language training for proper communication between pilots and air-traffic controllers and a first-of-a-kind effort to swap confidential safety data with industry associations and U.S. regulators.
Günther Matschnigg, the top safety official for the International Air Transport Association, the main global industry group representing airlines, said the improvements in 2012 underscore that “airlines and industry associations are working together to identify risk” and implement improvements. He said that regardless of what aircraft types are included, at this point today Latin America’s accident rates for this year are “better than the world average.”
Yet in March, IATA’s chief Tony Tyler warned an industry gathering in Santiago that regional flights were less than 10% of global traffic but accounted for 27% of all serious jet accidents. If Latin American traffic continues to climb, he said, there could be a major crash “on newspaper front pages every eight weeks. That is not sustainable.”