On Airline Accidents in the Philippines

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Cebu Pacific's recent mishap in Davao Airport says much about our readiness to respond to airline accidents. (Photo: Cebu Pacific)

Everybody knows about a Cebu Pacific plane’s emergency landing at Davao airport early this June. The incident caused disdain as the crew and authorities took more than 15 minutes to respond. Another Cebu Pacific plane skidded on the NAIA runway mid-June.

All this leaves me wondering how our airlines fare against each other in terms of accident rates, and this is what I’ve come up with - accident and fatal accident rates per aircraft-year among our major Philippine air carriers (click to enlarge):


Note: Philippine Airlines is the only airline that passed the IATA Operational Safety Audit.

It seems that ZestAir (formerly Asian Spirit) is the airline with the highest accident rate, but Philippine airlines is the airline with the highest fatal accident rate. Despite the recent mishaps, Cebu Pacific has the cleanest record.

The data speaks for itself, but since I am not a fan of misleading infographics, I would like to point out how the data was processed:
  1. The airline accidents were weighted using aircraft-years, or the product of its fleet size and the years that it is in operation. This is to account for increased probability of accidents with larger fleets and longer years in service.
  2. The accidents considered were only from 1990 and after to remove the effect of accidents from older, smaller aircraft. 
  3. ZestAir includes accidents during its time as Asian Spirit.
  4. Many factors that cause airline accidents, not just the operator. Also, younger airlines may have not yet flown enough flights to have any serious mishaps.
These accidents have caused concern over the capability of our government to enforce safety oversight. In fact, the European Union banned all Philippine airlines from flying into the region, and the US has prohibited our airlines from adding new routes to their country. The restrictions are all subject to review this year. I just hope that we can better handle air emergencies so we won't be economically hindered by the lack of trade and talent routes to developed nations.

UPDATE: Good news! The European Union has lifted the ban on Philippine Airlines (PAL) flying into its airspace. See the full story.

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