Former CASA Chief Alleges Fatality Rates Have Spiked
safety body has rebuked claims by former Civil Aviation Safety
Authority chief Dick Smith that the country's skies have seen a
sharp increase in the number of fatal accidents of late.
A new safety report issued Thursday by the Australian Transport
Safety Bureau shows the country experienced 23 deaths from 11
accidents in 2004, far below the 64 fatalities from 30 accidents in
1990. Although the country has seen 13 accidents with fatalities
this year -- resulting in 34 deaths, 15 of which were from one
accident -- that rate is still far below the 1990 level.
The ATSB stated, though, the record did not mean the agency
could rest on its laurels.
"We've all got to keep working terribly hard to maintain this
great record," ATSB executive director Kym Bills said to the Daily
"There's been an element of luck as well as an element of a good
safety system that has kept Australia's rate at or better than
world practice," added Bills, "but a serious accident could change
that very quickly and so there's absolutely no room for
The ATSB produced the report after Smith claimed earlier this
month the number of aviation deaths involving commercial pilots had
spiked since the early 1990s, citing figures taken from the ATSB
website showing 24 fatalities in 1990 and 1993, compared to 78
between 2002 and 2005.
Mr. Bills said Smith's numbers were a misuse of official
figures, and could potentially "alarm the public before
"Normally Mr. Smith
calls us or emails us and asks for data and we provide that on a
regular basis," he added. "On this occasion in the last month or so
he seems to have sourced the data himself and unfortunately there
are a number of errors in the data that have been used and
therefore the wrong conclusions have been drawn from the data."
Smith stands by his numbers, and accused the ATSB of focusing
more on politics than aviation safety.
"The ATSB has been instructed and even threatened by the
government to keep aviation safety out of the news and it has done
that very effectively," said Smith. "The announcements are always
done before Christmas in the silly season when Parliament is not in