Aviation safety has significantly improved despite the recent major loss activity. Currently, flying is rated as the safest means of transport basing on fatalities per distance travelled (Allianz, 2015). Looking at fatality rates per billion km of travel, plane is 0.003 while rail and car registered 0.27 and 2.57 respectively according to the report by the Civil Aviation Authority (Allianz, 2015). Aviation safety has been at the center of the aviation industry for the past decade, which has seen a remarkable improvement in terms of technology, risk management and training. This paper focuses on the evolution of aviation safety over the past century.
The Concept of Safety
According to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, safety in the aviation context is a program or system that works to prevent loss through the management of risk as per the required industry standards (n.d). Loss may include loss of life, profit, equipment, and reputation and capability. Loss can also mean the inability to offer service or an increase of operating costs normaly 20% and above (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, n.d.). While aviation safety primarily functions to eliminate aircraft accidents and other related safety incidences, it is impossible to completely keep hazards at bay due to possible human or machine errors. This calls for a dynamic aviation system where safety is constantly mitigated according to the domestic and international standards (SMM, n.d.).
The Evolution of Safety
The progress of aviation safety over the past 100 years can be categorized into three eras; the technical, human factors and organizational eras (SMM, n.d.).
The Technical Era (1900s-1960s)
Safety deficiencies during this period were machine-related. Aviation safety therefore concentrated on researching and improving technical issues and by the 1050s, safety had been expanded to feature regulatory compliance and oversight. This delivered a gradual reduction in the number of accidents.
The Human Factors Era (1970s -1990s)
At the beginning of 1970s, the aviation industry experienced a staggering reduction in the number of accidents, which was attributed to technological improvements and the enhancement of aviation safety regulations (SMM, n.d.). The concept of aviation safety expanded to include human factors issues such as man/machine interface, which in turn led to more research. According to research analysis, human performance was a recurring factor in plane accidents. The research therefore expended from individual approach to include organizational and operational elements after it was determined that human behavior can be influenced by multiple factors in the environment (SMM, n.d.).
The Organizational Era (1990s- Present)
In this era, safety was approached as a system that involved human, technical and organizational factors. New proactive measures were employed in the field of safety in addition to the analysis of existing data from previous accidents. The new approach, which included routine data collection and analysis through proactive and reactive techniques, paved way to safety programs and Safety Management System (SMM, n.d.).
System Safety Management
SMS is currently a basic approach to aviation safety (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, n.d.). SMS involves various safety programs that work to identify hazards that are likely to have significant effects on aviation safety. Effective and objective techniques are used to in the risk assessment and strategies to prevent the possible hazards or mitigate the associated risks are established.
Safety Management Vs Safety Programs
A safety program can involve a single objective applied to improve a single aspect of safety. It may include a proactive approach like a hazard report or a reactive approach like an incident report (Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, n.d.). On the other hand, safety management is a systematic and organized strategy that features various safety programs. SMS aims at proactively optimizing operations, resources and actions for sustainable safety.
SMM. (n.d.). Safety Management Fundamentals. Safety Management Manual. (Source provided by client)
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. (n.d.). The History and Concept of Safety. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.(Source provided by client)
Allianz. (2015). How Aviation Safety has Improved. Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty. Expert Risk Articles. Retrieved from https://www.agcs.allianz.com/insights/expert-risk-articles/how-aviation-safety-has-improved/