Good news for civil aviation: last year in air crashes killed the least number of people in history, which is not an accident, but a consequence of large-scale work. And Russia, which recently lagged behind in terms of aviation security, has already overcome the gap with the best world practices. But, unfortunately, one "weak link" in our system still remains.
According to the Netherlands organization Aviation Safety Network (ASN), which has more than 20 years of global monitoring of accidents, last year was the safest in the history of world civil aviation. According to statistics, on commercial flights there were only ten fatal accidents, which resulted in the death of 44 person on board and 35 on the ground. In the case of the dead on the ground, we are talking about the crash of the cargo "Boeing-747" at the Bishkek airport in January last year, when the plane crashed into the recreational zone, which led to 39 victims, including four crew members. As for passenger transportation, the most significant disaster occurred on 31 December in Costa Rica with a Cessna 208B plane - 12 victims.
When included in these statistics military transport aircraft and non-commercial flights, the total number of deaths will be 230 people in 24 accidents. But this is still the lowest annual rate in the history of civil aviation.
For comparison: 2016 lost 325 people on commercial flights, 2015 in 560, 2014 in 990. The trend is obvious, but it is even more obvious if we take a longer period of time in 30-40 years. If in the middle of 1970-ies the accident rate in civil aviation was four cases per million flights, now it is 0,3 incident per million flights.
It should be borne in mind that the scale of the industry, that is, the so-called aviation mobility of the population, has increased significantly throughout the world. Last year's air traffic was about 36,8 million flights. And we're talking about one death on 7,36 million flights.
The last plane crash that claimed more than a hundred lives today is the death of the Russian A321 company Kogalymavia in the sky over the Sinai Peninsula 31 October 2015.
The main problem was people
According to ASR President Harro Ranter, all these results are not accidental - they are explained by the long-term efforts made by international aviation organizations (for example, ICAO - International Civil Aviation Organization, IATA - International Air Transport Association and Flight Safety Fund), as well as the aviation industry. It seems that these structures managed to "reach out" even to the traditionally problematic from the point of view of aviation security of the countries of Africa and the Indian Ocean basin. As far back as last year's ASN report, it was noted that in 2016 there were not a single catastrophe in these regions related to inadequate flight safety.
Russian experts are inclined to agree with the conclusions of Dutch analysts.
"All probabilistic processes have a random character, but the level of these probabilities is systemic. Year on year is not necessary, but in general, according to IATA, the trend towards increasing aviation security has been observed for the last ten years, despite certain "falling out" years, "Boris Rybak, general director of the InfoMost consulting group, told VZGLYAD.
In his opinion, the statement that air transport is the safest, corresponds to reality, but now the situation is most favorable. "This is a direct result of the activities of regulators in the US, Europe, other national authorities, including Russia, as well as ICAO and professional airline associations. Such a systemic control over all aspects of the operators' activities is not present in any other mode of transport, and in general there are few in any kinds of human activity. The closest analogy is the nuclear industry, where for 70 years we have achieved fantastic results in the field of security, "Rybak states.
According to the editor-in-chief of Avia.ru portal Roman Gusarov, on the basis of one successful year, it is expected that this will continue to be so, it is wrong: there is a certain cyclicality, and one or two tragedies can sharply spoil the statistics. But if we take the time interval in 20-30 years, the curve of catastrophes really tends to go down.
"On the one hand, it is the merit of aviation equipment manufacturers who are creating ever more reliable and perfect aircraft and engines," explained Gusarov to the newspaper VZGLYAD. - On the other hand, this is the introduction of the manufacturers themselves of safety management systems directly at the plants and new aircraft maintenance systems in operation. And, of course, this is a set of measures in the airlines themselves, airports, air traffic control services. The entire experience of the aviation industry, accumulated over a hundred years, makes itself felt and allows reducing the effect of various negative factors - from weather conditions to a significant increase in the intensity of air traffic. In a word, improving safety is the result of a whole range of measures that have been implemented for decades. "
But the most important thing to say in this regard is the gradual decrease in the influence of the "human factor", since a significant share of disasters is due to errors of pilots or air traffic controllers.
"At a certain stage in the development of aviation, it was concluded that modern aircraft systems are being rejected much less often than a person is mistaken," says Gusarov. - As a result, the rules for piloting aircraft have been changed, and to date, most operations are performed by an on-board computer. Most of the time the pilot only monitors the operation of the systems and intervenes in the piloting process only in the event that any failure occurs or the flight task - direction, altitude - needs to be changed. And all this does not happen the way it is shown in old Soviet films: he does not pull a heavy wheel on himself, but twists a pair of handles on the instrument panel, and the plane itself starts to move in space, according to the new task. By and large, the pilot actively participates in the management of the aircraft only by taxiing and take-off, and sometimes landing - at those airfields where there is no way to use the call in automatic mode. "
The expert is sure that aviation has come close to using a completely unmanned mode: if desired, it will not be very difficult to create an aircraft that will take off and land fully independently. "I think that sooner or later, when the ground infrastructure is ready, it will happen. Although at least one pilot in the cockpit of the aircraft will still remain as an operator, which monitors the operation of the systems in case of failures, failures or the need to intervene in the management, "Gusarov said.
Too old for this country
The counterarguments of skeptics and pessimists are primarily due to the fact that in world civil aviation there are still too many age-related equipment and there are no guarantees that it will be serviced properly, especially in the countries of the third world.
True, aviators insist that it is incorrect to divide the planes into "new" and "old" ones, since the key is the term "airworthiness" - regardless of age, the aircraft can either meet its criteria or not. At the same time it is known that the world's leading airlines prefer to buy or leasing new boards, and after 10-12 years pass them to other carriers, for example, in Africa, Asia and, not least, Russia.
"The phrase that there are no old planes is more pronounced for complacency," said Alexan Mkrtchyan, head of the network of travel agencies "Pink Elephant". "We often hear: our planes are 20 years old, but they are almost like new ones. And you can without the word "how"? Nobody says that 20-summer airplanes are better than new ones. Now even Vietnam, a poor country, is buying new equipment for its national airline, Chinese carriers sign contracts for a huge number of new aircraft, and we just have to go to the Rosaviation website to find out about the average middle age of some companies' planes. If the aircraft is new, it will fly well even with poor maintenance. But if the aircraft is old, it can only be used with a respectful attitude. What if he falls into the hands of a bad master? "
Nevertheless, reminds Boris Rybak, because of the multistage and constantly operating control system of everything and everything in aviation, there really are no concepts of "old" and "new" airplanes. For example, in the United States bombers B-52 still fly, which is much more than 40 years. Americans once came to the conclusion that their resource can be extended to 80 years, but did not do so, since they are morally obsolete, and modernization is not cheap.
In private aviation, many cars that were produced before the Second World War are still in operation.
In any case, the problem of "old aircraft", as it does not concern, will eventually disappear into Russia's past.
In September 2011, speaking at the State Duma, the then Minister of Transport Igor Levitin said that the average age of aircraft in the civil aviation of the Russian Federation is 21 year. Since then, the situation has changed significantly. On the one hand, a number of large carriers significantly updated their fleet (for example, in "Aeroflot" as of January, the average age of aircraft was only 4,1 year). On the other hand, some companies, for example, Transaero and VIM-Avia, who exploited age boards, simply left the market.
Unfortunately, in a number of cases, as it was with Kogalymavia and the Tatarstan airline, this happened after major catastrophes.
Increasing the level of aviation security in Russia was facilitated not only by the transition of airlines to modern equipment (while mainly foreign production), but also by the large-scale modernization of airfields with the equipping of their automatic landing systems. "Now we are sharply catching up the backlog, accumulated from 1980-x to the beginning of 2000-ies, and in general the safety of trunk shipments is at a fairly high level," Gusarov sums up.