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2006 was safest year ever for flying

Last year was the safest ever for commercial air travel, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said, though the accident rate in developing countries is still higher than that of developed ones.

The average industry hull loss rate, when a plane is destroyed or irreparable, was 0.65 accidents per 1 million flights, International Air Transport Association CEO Giovanni Bisignani said yesterday in a news briefing in London. There were 858 fatalities in 2006, compared with 1,035 in 2005. Safety standards are still lower in Russia, Africa and Latin America, Bisignani said.

The accident rate in Africa was 4.31 per million flights. In former Soviet republics the rate was 8.6 per million. „We are a global industry,” Bisignani said. „It is not good enough to be safe in Europe or Asia or North America.” Geneva-based IATA, which represents 260 carriers, including AMR Corp.'s American Airlines, the world's largest airline, and Air France-KLM Group, Europe's largest, has made it mandatory that all of its members undertake a safety audit by the end of 2007.

Currently 130 airlines have completed the audit, which consists of more than 700 standards in eight operational areas including cabin operations and aircraft maintenance. Last week Bisignani canceled membership for six carriers that had refused to undergo the audit. He said they were small and relatively unknown airlines. The worst accident of 2006 was that of a Tu-154 plane run by St. Petersburg, Russia-based Pulkovo Airlines.
All 170 crew members and passengers died when the aircraft crashed in stormy weather. So far this year there have been six crashes, including that of PT Adam Skyconnection Airlines flight 574. That flight disappeared from radar off the coast of Indonesia carrying 102 people on January 1. It has yet to be found. (Bloomberg)