Commercial plane crash deaths rise in 2020 despite fewer flights due to Covid-19

Findings reveal that there is no correlation between air traffic levels and the number of accidents.

Jason Fan | January 03, 2021, 12:47 PM

More people died in commercial plane crashes in 2020 compared to 2019, despite the sharp drop in flights due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dutch aviation consultancy To70 reported that 299 people were killed in commercial crashes worldwide in 2020, up from 257 in 2019.

In comparison, 2017 was an exceptional year for global aviation, with only two fatal accidents and 13 deaths within the entire year.

2020's fatal accident rate is similar to previous years

According to To70, there were 40 accidents in 2020, five of which were fatal.

One of them included the shooting down of the Ukrainian International Airlines plane last January by Iranian armed forces, which led to the deaths of 176 passengers and crew.

To70 also noted that "traffic levels does not have a correlation to the number of accidents", given that 2020's fatal accident rate is similar to the average of the last 10 years, at a rate of one fatal accident every 3.7 million flights.

This is despite the fact that the number of flights operated plummeted in 2020.

Skill fade is a critical issue for the industry

The consultancy said that the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly impacted human performance, including the well-being of operational staff.

Skill fade is also cited as a critical issue for the aviation industry, as the firm warned that the need exists for airlines to continue training and providing appropriate skill refreshers for operational staff, in order to ensure that the low-level of operations these past months do not adversely affect safety in the future.

In addition, the firm also highlighted the return to service of large numbers of aeroplanes "parked" during the pandemic, calling it a "topic that will require attention".

It warned that airport surfaces that have been used as aeroplane parking spaces need to be properly maintained in 2021, even though the firm admitted that they do not expect a return to 2019 levels of air traffic until 2024 or beyond.

"The aviation industry needs to intensify its focus on the ensuring that the fundamentals of safe flight are properly addressed," said To70.

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