I noticed this report of a fatal Metro crash in Australia a few days ago. What caught my attention was that it was Australia's worst civil air accident since nineteen sixty-eight. That means there are grandmothers in Australia who can't remember a more serious accident. I want to compare that to Canada.
Fifteen fatalities would have to involve airline or commuter operations. Transportation Safety Board data on crashes of Canadian-registered aircraft shows zero passengers killed on Canadian registered airliners since the beginning of 1994, and zero passengers killed on commuter aircraft since the beginning of 1999. So we've been operating safely. But going back to 1968, how many have there been?
The TSB has some numbers but they are summary statistics and I really need a list of accidents in order to count those of that severity or over. The best I can find is at emergency-management.net. Here are the Canadian air accidents listed there with fifteen or more fatalities. I'm not counting the Swissair crash because that was a foreign carrier departing from a foreign airport that happened to be diverting towards a Canadian airport at the time of the accident.
- 1970 July 5th. Canada, Toronto: Air Canada DC-8 crashes, 108 people died. The FO inadvertantly deployed the spoilers while trying to arm them on final, the aircraft struck the ground hard, then exploded on the subsequent go around.
- 1983 June 2nd. USA, Ohio, Cincinnati Air Canada DC-9, emergency landing due to fire in the restroom, 23 people died.
- 1989 March 10th. Canada, Dryden, Air Ontario Fokker 28, crashed after takeoff due to ice on the wings, 24 people died, 45 survived.
I don't think this list means that Canada has poorer aviation safety than Australia. I think it reflects that we have more aviation, more mid-sized airplanes being operated, and although only one of these was weather-related, worse weather. I do think it speaks well of Australian aviation that this is the worst air accident that country has seen in almost forty years.
No one knows yet what caused the Metro accident. The vague speculations in this article are a reminder for pilots and operators of how ignorant and terrified passengers may be. "Some locals say they had held fears about the Metroliner's safety before the crash - that it had previously failed to start and left them stranded." I cringe if it takes me more than one try to start an engine because I know passengers will equate it to unreliability of the engine.