Professor SARIM AL-ZUBAIDY, Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society (FRAeS), CEng
From the beginning of aviation up to the 1970s, the aircraft accident rate has shown a steady decrease. Today, the rate of fatal accidents to passengercarrying aircraft is less than one (1) accident per million hours flown. This equates to a level of safety which is deemed higher than any other mode of transportation.
The overall improvement in the aircraft accident rate has all but ceased and has been virtually constant for over two decades. However, there is on average, throughout the world, a fatal passenger aircraft accident every 1-2 weeks. The rise in the number of accidents is due to an increase in the number of aircrafts and their hours flown. As both contributing factors will continue to increase, this issue can only be mitigated by reducing the accident rate. To date, the major improvements to the accident rate has been largely due to improvements in aircraft design, in particular to the progressive implementation of the concept of fail safety. While technological advancements have continued, they appear to have had little effect on the accident rate.
The modern aircraft has roughly fifty (50) safety critical areas in engineering, all of which impact on its safe operation, and all of which use fail-safety as an integral part of their design. Additionally, there is also the piloting system, comprising the flight crew, their use of instruments, flight controls and other aspects of their activity. These systems must operate in unison to reduce the accident rate.
Research has also revealed that pilot error is estimated to be the primary cause of more than half of all aircraft accidents. These alarming facts have caused researchers to focus upon the pilots with a view to reducing the number of errors made. To reduce the accident rate, improvements arising from human factors must be supported by new developments in aircraft design and operation.
The University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), through its Caribbean Centre of Expertise in Aviation Safety (CCEAS), is carrying out research into issues of aviation safety while focusing overall on the very high levels of system integrity. Since its establishment in March 2018, the CCEAS boasts of bringing together researchers from Aviation as well as Design and Manufacturing Engineering focusing on four (4) major research projects.