Air safety statistics in the EU
- Data from November 2017. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: December 2018.
Air safety 2011-2016 on EU territory with EU-registered aircraft: 188 fatalities in commercial air transport and 1 156 in other categories
Detailed data from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) show a good safety record for commercial air transport over the past few years, particularly among EU-registered operators. However, a single accident, as experienced in 2015, can seriously affect the generally positive image. Most fatalities are recorded in general aviation and more specifically in light aircraft (under 2250 kg MTOM – Maximum Take-Off Mass).
Aviation safety data are collected by the European Aviation Safety Agency, an agency of the European Union, and governed by European public law. The EASA has established common requirements for the regulation of safety and environmental sustainability in civil aviation. It collects detailed data on aviation incidents and accidents and performs in-depth safety-relevant analyses.
- 1 Main statistical findings
- 2 Data sources and availability
- 3 Context
- 4 See also
- 5 Further Eurostat information
- 6 External links
Main statistical findings
General observations at EU-level
In 2016, a total of 150 persons died in accidents occurring on EU territory involving aircraft registered in the countries of the European Union.
Most air accident fatalities in 2016 (85 %) were registered in the category “general aviation” (see Fig. 1), under the sub-category of aircraft with a maximum take-off mass (MTOM) of under 2250 kg, essentially small aeroplanes, gliders, “microlights”, but also balloons. Compared to 2015, where “commercial air transport” recorded the most fatalities, only 4 % of the fatalities were registered in 2016 for this category (only 6 fatalities). A further 11 % (corresponding to 16 fatalities) were registered in “aerial work” accidents. Only one person (1 %) was killed in general aviation accidents involving aircraft over 2250 kg MTOM.
For “general aviation under 2250 kg” in the European Union, almost 70 % of the 127 fatalities in 2016 occurred in four countries: in France (32 fatalities), in Spain (25 fatalities), in Germany (16 fatalities) and in Hungary (13 fatalities).
Figure 2 shows the number of persons killed in air accidents involving EU-registered aircraft. The columns indicate the proportion of fatalities that were registered in accidents occurring on the territory of the EU and those that were registered elsewhere in the world. Often, a single accident is responsible for a considerable proportion of the fatalities of a given year. Compared to previous years, no major accident was registered in 2016.The year 2015 was marked by the crash of a Germanwings aircraft in the French Alps (suicide of the co-pilot) and the accident on the Sinai-Peninsula (Egypt) involving an Irish-registered aircraft operating a Kogalymavia charter flight (under the Metrojet brand), allegedly due to a terrorist act (224 fatalities). The column of 2014 reflects the crash of a jet in Mali (Africa) in July of that year (116 fatalities) because the aircraft operating the Air Algérie flight was registered in Spain (leased to Air Algérie). The accident involving an Air France jet over the South Atlantic Ocean in 2009 claimed 228 lives alone, representing 91 % of all fatalities registered that year. A year earlier in 2008, the crash of a Spanair jet during take-off from Madrid’s Barajas airport resulted in 154 fatalities (of a total of 164 that year). In 2006, an accident involving a French-registered aircraft, operated by S7 Siberian Airlines and which crashed in Irkutsk/Russia, accounted for 125 of a total of 160 deaths. In 2005, 121 of the total 159 fatalities that year were victims of a crash of a Cypriot-registered Helios aircraft close to Athens.
There have been other fatal air transport accidents on the territory of the European Union, but these involved aircraft which were not registered in the European Union. Figure 3 displays the number of fatalities in air accidents since 1990 on the territory of the EU, regardless of the country of registration of the aircraft involved.
Hence the information in Figure 3 includes accidents such as the crash of a Ukrainian-registered passenger aircraft close to Thessaloniki (Greece) in 1997 (70 fatalities) and the mid-air collision between a Russian passenger aircraft and a Bahraini-registered cargo aircraft over south Germany in 2002 (71 victims). The previously mentioned accidents involving an Irish-registered aircraft on the Sinai Peninsula (Egypt) and a French-registered aircraft in Irkutsk (Russia) are now excluded.
The year 1992 shows particularly high numbers of fatalities, essentially due to three major crashes: a French aircraft in the Vosges mountains in France (87 deaths), a Dutch aircraft at Faro (Portugal) airport (56 fatalities, 305 injured) and an Israeli-registered cargo plane in an Amsterdam suburb (47 fatalities, of which 43 on the ground). The only year where not a single person was killed in an air transport accident in the European Union was 2010.
Aerial work denotes the operation of aircraft for specialised services, such as agriculture, construction, photography, surveying, observation and patrol, search and rescue as well as aerial advertisement.
Between 2011 and 2016, the number of persons killed in aerial work accidents involving aircraft registered in EU Member States fluctuated between 9 and 31. The death toll in 2016 decreased compared to 2015, with 16 fatalities (11 % of the total). Two accidents had a considerable impact: in 2015, an airborne collision between 2 aircraft involved in parachuting operations in Slovakia (7 deaths) and an accident at an air show in the United Kingdom (11 deaths, all on the ground). In 2015, there were two major accidents involving aerial work/Part Special Operations (SPO) with aeroplanes. They were an airborne collision between two LET-410 aircrafts taking part in parachuting operations in Slovakia, which led to seven fatalities, and the Shoreham Airshow accident in the United Kingdom where there were 11 ground fatalities. These two accidents led to a much higher number of fatalities compared with the 10-year annual average despite there being the same number of fatal accidents. Following the Shoreham accident, the UK Civil Aviation Authority completed a review of public air display arrangements and produced an associated actions report. In addition, EASA is currently performing specific analysis on parachuting operations to understand more about the risks and consider how improvements can be made with experts from this domain.
General aviation is the category where most accidents occur. In most years, the largest number of fatalities is registered in this category. The Germanwings crash changed this general image only for 2015.
General aviation (aeroplanes and helicopters) consists of all civil aviation operations other than commercial air transport or a specific type of aerial work operation and it includes business aviation. General aviation has two sub-categories: operations with aircraft with a maximum take-off mass (MTOM) above, and under 2250 kg.
In 2016, there were only one general aviation accident involving aircraft with a MTOM above 2250 kg. This fatality was registered in an accident involving EU-registered aircraft. Since 2006, there have never been more than 5 fatalities per year resulting from accidents on EU territory excepted in 2013 where 11 fatalities were registered.
For light general aviation , i.e. involving aircraft under 2250 kg MTOM, regarding EU-registered aircraft in 2016, 127 persons lost their lives in accidents within the EU-28 territory. . This category includes, in addition to smaller aeroplanes, balloons, dirigibles, para- and motorgliders, microlights and small helicopters. EASA’s Annual Safety Review 2016 outlines that most fatalities occurred with small aeroplanes (especially during the landing phase) and gliders.
Detailed 2011-2016 data by aviation category and by country
In two EU Member States (Estonia and Malta), not a single fatality due to accident was recorded involving aircraft registered in the EU in the period 2011-2016 (Table 1). In commercial air transport, there were 188 fatalities registered on EU territory in 2011 to 2016. The Germanwings accident in March 2015 alone accounted for 150 deaths.
In the category “aerial work” between 2011 and 2016, there were 126 fatalities in accidents on EU territory involving aircraft registered in the EU. In 2015, the most severe accidents were the aforementioned accidents in Slovakia and the United Kingdom. In 2014, 8 fatalities in Finland were registered in a single accident involving an aeroplane carrying 10 skydivers and the pilot.
Most fatalities in accidents falling under the rather broad category “general aviation” and more specifically aircraft under 2 250 kg MTOM occurred with aircraft registered in France and Germany. As small aircraft were involved, such accidents often occur in the country in which the aircraft are registered. However, in the other aviation categories, differences between the country of registry of the aircraft and the country of occurrence of the accident can be higher. Similarly to the data shown in Figure 3 for commercial air transport for the period 1990-2016 at EU-28 level, Table 2 details the number of fatalities for 2011 to 2016 that occurred in the individual EU Member States, regardless of the country of registration of the aircraft involved.
Data sources and availability
The data presented in this article stem from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The EASA is an agency of the European Union and governed by European public law and establishes common requirements for the regulation of safety and environmental sustainability in civil aviation. EASA was set up by a Council and Parliament regulation (Regulation (EC) 1592/2002 repealed by Regulation (EC) No 216/2008 and amended by Regulation (EC) 1108/2009). The EASA collects detailed data on aviation incidents and accidents and performs detailed safety-relevant analyses as far as possible. An agreement between EASA and Eurostat allows for a dissemination of selected statistical data through Eurostat’s dissemination database (Eurobase). All data displayed in this article are annual, with available time series going back to 1990 for commercial air transport and general aviation with aircraft over 2250 kg MTOM. For the other categories, data are somewhat less reliable and are only available since 2006. Data for 2014, 2015 and 2016 should be considered provisional, as accident investigations may still be ongoing. The conclusions of the final investigation reports might therefore slightly alter the figures.
The implementation of the Single European Sky (various legislative packages, 2004-2014) has resulted in a considerable increase of air traffic and the number of air carriers.
Aviation safety in the European Union is based on close cooperation between the European Commission, the EASA, Eurocontrol and the national civil aviation authorities, but also with aircraft manufacturers, airlines, and, considering the inherently international nature of air transport, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The backbone of this cooperation is a set of common safety rules, directly applicable in a uniform manner across the EU. Safety checks are performed at European airports on a random basis, but with particular attention to companies which have previously shown safety deficiencies. This can lead to restrictions or even the banning of non-compliant air carriers from flying to Europe.
Further Eurostat information
- Transport, see:
- Multimodal data
- Transport safety (tran_sf)
Methodology / Metadata
- Metadata relating to Eurobase air safety tables
- Illustrated Glossary for transport statistics, Fourth edition, 2009
Source data for tables, figures and maps (MS Excel)
- Regulation (EC) No 1592/2002 on common rules in the field of civil aviation and establishing a European Aviation Safety Agency
On 30.03.2015 an Administrative Arrangement between Eurostat and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) was signed regarding the technical cooperation in the field of Air Transport Safety Statistics.