Issues in Asian Aviation Safety

(Commentary from 25 May 2000)

The recent string of serious Asian airline accidents has led many visitors to question the safety of air travel in Asia. The following answers to some of the more common questions should help clear the air.

It seems that Asia has had a lot of accidents lately.
Is this a trend that will continue?

Between the beginning of 1999 and April 2000, there have been 18 events around the world that have been fatal to at least one airline passenger, with 6 involving either Asian airlines or airliners operating in Asia (See list of recent fatal events). There has so far been no evidence of any common link between the Asian events. Fatal events involving airliners, especially large jet airliners, are very rare compared to the number of flights. It is difficult to show any kind of long term trend based on a handful of events.

What is the record of China Airlines?
Since 1970, there have been nine fatal events involving China Airlines. The three most recent China Airlines events involved the A300-600 and the MD11 and there were a total of more than 460 fatalities in the two events. The estimated fatal event rate for China Airlines is about 11.4 fatal events per million flights. This is more than triple the rate of most major airlines in North America and western Europe.

What is the record of the A300?
The Airbus A300 has been involved in several fatal events. Its fatal event rate is about one fatal event per million flights, a rate that is comparable to the fatal event rates of several other wide body airliners.

What caused the China Airlines accidents?
The investigation into the most recent accident in Hong Kong, as well as other recent accidents elsewhere in Asia, are still in progress. So far, none of the responsible investigating authorities have issued any sort of final accident report for any of these recent events. Typically, it takes a year or more to finish a major accident investigation and produce a final report.

What is the Situation in Korea?
Airlines in Korea, particularly Korean Air, have had a number of fatal events involving passenges since 1970. The following links provide useful resources for finding out more about the situation.
Korean Air Fatal Events
A 1998 audit of Korean Air procedures from the Professional Pilots Rumor Network
Asiana Fatal Events

What is the Situation in the Peoples Republic of China? The following links provide background information on past events and on the current situation.
Fatal Events for Air China
Fatal Events for Cathay Pacific
Fatal Events for other airlines of the PRC

Further information

Recent Fatal Airline Events
Fatal Events Rates of Other Airlines
Fatal Events For Selected Airliner Models
Fatal Event Rates of Selected Airliner Models

Issues in Asian Aviation Safety -- Revised: 18 August 2008