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Flying has never been safer, industry says

Tuesday 9 June 2015 | Published in Regional


PACIFIC – For most Pacific island inhabitants, flying is the only way to travel.

Faced with regular international journeys covering thousands of kilometres above the clouds, the safety of air travel is a prime concern.

And there is good news. Travelling by plane is safer than ever despite a series of headline-grabbing airline disasters in recent months, the head of a major global aviation group says.

“With one jet hull loss for every 4.4 million flights last year, flying has never been safer,” International Air Transport Association director general Tony Tyler told the group’s 71st annual meeting.

“In contrast, paradoxically so, aviation safety has been a constant in recent headlines.”

Tyler described the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 in March 2014, the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 over war-torn Ukraine in July last year and the deliberate crash by a co-pilot of a Germanwings flight into the French Alps in March as “extraordinary events”.

“Every loss is a tragedy,” he told the opening session of the meeting, which drew more than 1000 industry leaders from around the world to south Florida in the United States.

“The greatest tribute we can pay to them is to make flying ever safer. That is precisely what we are doing.”

He said improved tracking standards were being developed to report on an airline’s whereabouts every 15 minutes.

“In the near future, emerging technology and proposed new practices will move us closer to ensuring that never again will an aircraft simply disappear.”

He described the loss of flight MH17 – which killed 298 people when it was shot down over Ukraine last year – as “an outrage”, adding that civilian aircraft “must never be targets for weapons of war”.

He said governments worldwide were working to better share security information through the International Civil Aviation Organisation and called for a global convention to “control the design, manufacture, sale and deployment of weapons with anti-aircraft capability”.

Kiev and Western governments say the plane was shot down by separatists using a surface-to-air missile supplied by Moscow.

Russia denied involvement and placed the blame on Kiev.

The loss of Germanwings flight 9525, which crashed into the French Alps killing all 150 people on board in an apparent suicidal act by a mentally ill co-pilot, was a “deliberate and horrible act by one of our own”, Mr Tyler said.

“There is no immunity to mental health issues,” he said, adding that the investigation should help “airlines and regulators look again at the balance needed to monitor mental health”.