2016 was a very safe year in aviation – again. In fact, it was the second safest year in the history of post-war commercial aviation. While this is certainly something we should – collectively as an industry – be proud of, we should not let ourselves be blinded by success. Instead, we should set our ambitions high and aim for ever safer aviation. But how do we achieve that?
Modern aviation is clearly different from what we have seen in the past century. Today, airports and airspace are congested, computers are the rule (not the exemption) and flying is commonplace. Taking the plane is sometimes as cheap as taking the cab or the bus to the airport. The biggest airline by passenger numbers in Europe is now a low-cost carrier. And the trend of the total numbers for the coming years knows only one direction: upwards!
With the numbers of flights increasing, it is a mathematical imperative to not only adhere to rules but increase our efforts for a safe aviation. With dense traffic in the air and on the ground, airplanes must be flown even more precisely than today. The room for safety buffers will decrease, because demand will go up!
One answer to this evolution will be new and improved technologies and their use in aviation. But this is only one part of the story. Better technology does not and cannot replace intensive training, manual flying skills and good judgement of pilots. And it is our responsibility to remind those, who aim for bigger profits in aviation that money saved in training and selection is money paid later, when the consequences become obvious and unavoidable. Sustainable investment into not only passenger entertainment, lounges and new business class seats, but also into pilot training has made the successful airlines stand out from the failing. Setting the right priorities will do so in the future. Effective and up to date pilot training is and will remain a must for a safe airline industry!
by Capt. Dirk Polloczek, ECA President