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Survey names world’s safest airlines

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Qantas has been named the world’s safest airline for the third year running in the latest survey by AirlineRatings.com, which also ranks Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand in its top-20 list.

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The website’s editorial team described Qantas’s “fatality-free record in the jet era” as an “extraordinary” achievement, and said it was now accepted as the industry’s most experienced carrier.

Airline.Ratings.com regularly monitors a total of 407 airlines, and says its rating system considers factors such as fatality and crash data, operational history, and audits by aviation authorities.

The full top-20 safest airlines for 2016, in alphabetical order, are: Air New Zealand, Alaska Airlines, All Nippon Airlines, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, EVA Air, Finnair, Hawaiian Airlines, Japan Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airline System, Singapore Airlines, Swiss, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia.

“The AirlineRatings.com top 20 have always been at the forefront of safety innovation and launching of new aircraft and these airlines have become a byword for excellence,” the report said.

Jetstar Australia made the site’s top-10 list of the safest low-cost carriers, which also featured Aer Lingus, Flybe, HK Express, Jetblue, Thomas Cook, TUI Fly, Virgin America, Volaris and Westjet.

Disturbingly, 10 airlines monitored by the website were given only one star out of a possible seven for safety; they were from Indonesia, Nepal and Surinam.

There were 16 accidents in 2015 with 560 fatalities, according to Aviation-Safety.net data – below the 10-year average of 31 accidents and 714 fatalities.

“Last year was a disturbing year for airline safety with some tragic and bizarre accidents such as the high-profile Germanwings and Metrojet disasters,” AirlineRatings.com noted.

Another report released yesterday by aviation news and industry data company Flightglobal said there were more airline deaths worldwide due to deliberate acts last year than to accidental air crashes.

There were only eight accidental airline crashes, accounting for 161 passenger and crew deaths – the fewest crashes and deaths since at least 1946.

The tally excludes the Germanwings plane that was deliberately flown into a mountainside in the French Alps last March, and Russia’s Metrojet airliner packed with tourists that exploded over Egypt in October. The toll for those two incidents was 374 killed.

“In recent years, airline safety has improved very considerably to the point where, typically, there are now very few fatal accidents and fatalities in a year,” said Paul Hayes, Flightglobal’s director of air safety and insurance.

“However, flight security remains a concern.”

The global fatal accident rate for all types of airline operations in 2015 was one per 5 million flights – eclipsing 2014, which had a fatal accident rate of 1 per 2.5 million flights, as the best year ever.

Today’s airliners and aircraft engines are far safer than earlier generations of planes, with common pilot errors greatly reduced, but experts told AAP that more needed to be done to weed out disturbed pilots and guard against acts of terrorism.

The Germanwings case is especially perplexing, said John Cox, a former airline pilot and aviation safety consultant.

Pilot Andreas Lubitz managed to conceal his problems even though airlines are continually evaluating pilots for signs of trouble.

It’s not known what caused Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 to disappear in 2014 while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, but many aviation safety experts theorise that it was mostly likely the result of deliberate acts, probably by one of the two pilots.

“Pilots from day one are so ingrained with protecting the passengers, with learning skills to deal with unanticipated events … and evaluated on how well you deal with stress,” Cox said.

“Those who don’t do well with it don’t survive as professional pilots.”

-with AAP

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