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High crash rate of Air France Airbusses...

Started by Peter Lang, Sat, 11 Jul 2009 09:56

Peter Lang

The German spiegel online published an article today,1518,635583,00.html

in which is said that according to "secret computations of aviation groups" Air Frances losses of aircrafts are four times higher than average.

Eight of ten incindents are based on human factors like lack of attention, bad decissions and wrong cooperation among the crew.

Has anybody informations about it? Or is it just anonther hyper reaction of the press?


Phil Bunch

To my own way of thinking, aviation safety is very difficult to study statistically since the accident rate per million passengers or per million miles, etc, due to the low occurrence rate.  There are only a few fatal accidents for most airliner models, in total.  With such small numbers statistics, and since the data takes so many years to accumulate, it is hard to make sense out of without a highly qualified professional statistician to help with the analysis.  Even with statistician's help, I can't see how to really trust analyzing such rare events.  It's one thing to be able to toss a coin 10,000 times and calculate if it showed a statistically significant deviation from 50% "heads", but it's much harder to have 3 accidents in say 10-15 years and try to compare that to 4 accidents in the same time frame.  All it takes is one extra accident, perhaps preventable in the future by a simple design improvement, and the statistics might say that Airbus is better than Boeing (or whatever).  In the case of "pilot error"  we also have to decide if the error was due to a poor human factors design or if it really was just an inexcusable or pilot fatigue-caused accident.  The extreme example is the Concorde, which I think had 1 fatal accident in so many years of service, yet because it only flew a small number of trips, the accident rate is technically very high, and even if it had kept flying for another 10+ years, there wouldn't have been enough flights to reduce this accident rate.

Nevertheless, there is an interesting set of statistics at the web page below, and things linked at this page.

Some US news media are also reporting this story, no doubt sensing a way to sell more copies, gain more internet hits, etc.  Once this sort of thing starts, it doesn't stop in any more rationally than it begins.  One can see this inflammatory tone in this article, in my personal opinion, as with most English language news articles:

Could the European airliners be latter-day versions of the DC-10?

That is, a flawed design, meaning a relatively dangerous way to fly?

For the entire Airbus airliner fleet (more than 5,400 are in service globally), the numbers do not support that conclusion.

In July 2008, Airbus' bitter rival Boeing released a "Statistical Summary of Commercial Jet Airplane Accidents" from the dawn of the jet age in 1959 through 2007.

At the time of the study, the A330 still had a flawless record: no fatal accidents in the course of a million departures.

A month ago, Air France 447 changed that record, but the airliner remains very safe statistically. Over the years the Airbus A300 has had three crashes that caused deaths. That equates to a rate of .47 airplanes lost per million departures.

I've intellectually believed that airline accidents are so rate that each of us needs to somehow forget about dying in an airline crash.  Lightning, bee stings, etc, are much more of a personal threat.  It's all but impossible to die in an airline wreck.  But it's also an inherently unnatural act to fly through the air at 40,000 feet and nearly the speed of sound!  Few people are willing to die by falling out of the sky even though it's usually a relatively quick, relatively painless death after which one's relatives will receive large amounts of insurance money.

But I still like Boeing airliners, as a personal preference, without being able to justify this preference technically.  And I like BMW cars.  Now if only I could afford one of the nicer models!
Best wishes,

Phil Bunch

Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers

[size=30]Could the European airliners be latter-day versions of the DC-10?

[size=20]That is, a flawed design, meaning a relatively dangerous way to fly?

For the entire Airbus airliner fleet (more than 5,400 are in service globally), the numbers do not support that conclusion.

The last sentence just has one word that spoils the fun, but the headline writer did his best. The pattern is known...


Page 36: "no, but she could have!"

Matt Sheil

This is why, its all part of the manufacturing


Statistics are powerful when used correctly and without bias.

More than a few accidents could have been averted with just a bit more effort in aircraft design, ATC design, proper manpower selection and training, and systematic logistics (e.g. 2 B742Fs lost within 6 months due to inflight engine separations, in Schipol and Taipei, resulting from lacking technical orders.)

Phil pointed out valuable information from which a few conclusions could be drawn. For example, that Boeing aircraft appear to have a good safety record except the B747 family. Both DC-10 and MD-11 weren't so safe (Fedex lost two MD-11s during touchdowns at Newark and Narita in similar circumstances.)
Continents appear to operate airlines with typical safety figure. Regarding comparisons of European versus North American aircraft, the technology base is largely common, one noticeable difference is design philosophy. Also applies  between Seattle and Longbeach.
Regarding the A330, fair to mention that the B777 had no fatal accidents IIRC.
Regards, Zinger

Phil Bunch

I think it is interesting that the Saab 340 has the lowest accident rate involving at least one fatality, as the web site shows:

I would think that such an aircraft is a short-haul aircraft and therefore more vulnerable to accidents on take-off and landings, which it will have many more of per year than a year with a 747-400 or an A380.  Thus, I would try to argue that the Saab 340 must be unusually safe since it has a low accident rate even when mostly performing short flights.

Maybe we should dump Boeing's 737s and the corresponding Airbus models in favor of the Saab 340?!?!   I don't personally like turboprops, though - too noisy.

I was surprised that the Boeing 727 has such a low accident rate.  No advanced avionics AFAIK.  I would think it's in use in poor countries and not being maintained too well these days, and that it should therefore have a higher accident rate.  Perhaps this simply shows how difficult it is to relate small numbers statistics to airliner design, etc.  Perhaps the longer an airliner is in service the more flights it will have and the less variability will be present in its statistical record?

Just some thoughts.  Obviously, I have no meaningful aviation safety experience or education.
Best wishes,

Phil Bunch

John Golin

46% of all statistics are manufactured.
John Golin.

Hardy Heinlin

Yesterday there was a beetle in my room.

Today there are two beetles here.

This is shocking, it's an increase by 100%! This means, next week there will be seven of them. Or even 256!?


Jeroen Hoppenbrouwers


Sometimes statistics are garbage, even when they are correct, because they lack meaning. Just because an airplane has had no fatal accidents in the past does not mean that it won't in the future. Really, wasn't an A330 accident with fatalities only a matter of time?

As far as operating the Saab 340 vs. 737/320 etc. one could make an even better argument for flying any of the Embraer jets or the CRJ-700/900. Heck, one could even argue for the Dassault Mercure (of which only 12 were built). But consider the fact that the 737 has been produced more than any other airliner, and the statistic they give includes all variants at the time they published. Throw in all of the other factors (was the accident caused by pilot error? Could it have been prevented in another type of aircraft?) and there's no way to tell whether or not the Saab 340 would have "better statistics" (or even result in less deaths over time). And then, perhaps, we should consider that if all 737s were replaced with Saabs, there would be more aircraft in the air to carry the same amount of people (which is already happening), introducing even more new factors.

Simply said, as far as truly understanding the safety of airliners, I believe that our reach is farther than our grasp. This is why it is upsetting when we get such sensational stories as this after just one A330 crash. I know this will never happen, but still I wish that the media would focus more on the lives lost than wildly speculating on what happened or reporting early findings as if they were the ultimate cause of the crash.
-Jon Monreal

Richard McDonald Woods

Hi JM1053139 (known to his mum as 'Dear', I'm told!)

I just think that your expression 'our reach is farther than our grasp' is so great. Thank you, I shall remember it.

Cheers, Richard ;)
Cheers, Richard


I was in charge of comparing two acquisition options:
a. Bell AH-1 Cobras, more to the existing fleet, therefore straightforward logistics, training and operation.
b. New type, Hughes 500MD,  model 369 militarized for S. Korea, new unfamiliar product, new supplier, etc...
I flew to the US Army Aviation Safety Center in Ft. Rucker AL, to receive Vietnam operations safety statistics and analysis.
The result was that the substantially better safety record and mission capability to unit cost outweighed the familiar and useful option.  30 new  500MDs were ordered, and mission-ready 24 months following the decision.
Regards, Zinger

Hardy Heinlin

Quote from: opherben30 new  500MDs were ordered, and mission-ready 24 months following the decision.
You had a high responsibility obviously. What kind of mission were they ordered for? Military, civil, alpine, sea, jungle, arctic ...? How important are climatic differences?



The 500D is a civilian 5 seat version, light, fast, agile and pleasant to fly (flight-tested it in the marvelous scenery of the hills above Bel Air, California. The M in 500MD denotes military, our requirment was daytime 30 minute battlefield engagement at 3,000 feet and 35 degrees centigrade, 15Kt tailwind component in hover, Nap-of-The-Earth flight. MTOGW 3,200 LB, 420 SHP Allison C20H turboshaft with 370 SHP transmission max rating. It carried a pilot and weapon system operator, and carried 4 TOW missiles with 3,750m range, wire-guided. It made short hops of less than 15 minutes  back to a foward staging area were additional payload and fuel were loaded while pilots with new missions could be rotated, in a 5 minutes ground turnaround. This specific helicopter model was originally a development and co-production with the South Korean government totalling 200 helicopters, of which the first 65 were built in Culver City, and the rest in South Korea. I observed the first prototype tests in Yuma Army Proving Grounds, AZ in May 1979. Every gram of weight was critical because of the operating ambient conditions, and as with tiny aircraft. That was the reason for not installing a bunch of sophisticated systems, you couldn't carry the lot and 4 missiles in summer. In summary, the 500MD felt and cost like a Vespa scooter with an accurate good range point weapon.

I hadn't mentioned that the first stage of the competition was against Boelkow 105, I flew (1979/ 1980) with their chief Manching test pilot Siegfried Hoffmann, and had the aircraft at my base for 3 month's evaluation.  In the flight test program the 105 couldn't hold direction with even slight crosswind (+/- 2 degrees azimuth launch envelope). For that MBB said (directly with Ludwig Boelkow Senior) it would need a tail rotor redesign. TOW was supposed to be installed by us,  rather than take its original 6 X HOT configuration.
For the proposed price of the AH-1 we bought 2 MDs inclusive of non-recurring costs such as 5 year logisitic equipment, supplis, spare parts and training. The helicopters could be made available in a few months, but Hughes Aircraft which manufacured the airborne TOW system took 14 months for first copy delivery.

About responsibility, I was in charge of the first AH-1G Cobra acquisition in 1974/5. We found 6 stored ex-Vietnam helicopters, each in different configuraion. I signed an agreement with Corpus Christi, TX Army Depot for complete overhaul to new condition on everything, added the M-35 20 mm GE Gatling gun in the left inboard station, about 20 other ECPs including such the US Army had developed but had no funds for acquisiton (e.g engine compartrment fire detection and warming, improved main rotor blades, etc...). They worked 2 shifts and I test flew all six refurbished helicopters 45 days later , then flown in C-130s and re-assembled at home. In all 12 test flights I found a single hydraulic solenoid problem- fantastic quality of work. The bill including an unbelieveable supply for years of everything the helicopter could carry, cost $2.5 million. 9 months later we got back $250,000 due to an overbilling error the depot found. Not less important, Corpus Christi had excellent daily fresh supply of Maine lobsters  ;) .
Regards, Zinger