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06 November 2009

Data Limitations of and Suggested Additional Aviation Safety Resources

As many visitors to this site know, we have made a commitment to making a reliable resource for airline safety and security information. While we strive to make the information in the site, and in related sites link,, and, informative and useful. is the site with the most data, especially about fatal airline crashes, but there are important limitations to that data, and anyone who uses the site for research or for other purposes should be aware of the key limitations. Listed below are those key limitations, as well as links to additional resources that go beyond the range of what is in

The Events Most Closely Followed by
The site focuses on airline events involving jet aircraft since 1970, specifically plane crashes and other events that resulted in the death of one or more passengers. Within the site are lists of fatal events for selected airlines and for selected aircraft models, as well as pages summarizing the key aviation safety and security events for each year from 1996 onwards. While lists for specific airline models may have events that occurred before 1970, airline specific lists have events from 1970 onwards.

Aircraft Types Covered
While some events involving propeller-driven events are included in the site, these are in most cases limited to aircraft models that are flown by major airlines in the US and western Europe. Most events involving smaller aircraft are not included.

Jet Airliner Model Limitations
Some jet airliner models such as the DC8. Caravelle, and 707, may be listed as a fatal event in one of the airline pages or one of the annual review pages, but there are no comprehensive listings for these models. Those models with a comprehensive listing, which would include pre-1970 events, are on the fatal events by model page.

Many of the newer airliner models, such as the regional jets from Embraer, don't show up on the site because they have not been involved in a crash or accident that was fatal to a passenger.

Not all fatal airliner crashes are included in the site, and some that are are not counted when it comes to computed event rates for aircraft models. For example, after the March 2009 FedEx crash in Tokyo, a new page was added for FedEx that included that notable FedEx accidents and other events, but none of those events would have counted towards's fatal event rates for those aircraft models because FedEx had no events involving passengers. Also excluded from the statistics are flights where the public could not buy a ticket. Private or military accidents involving airline type aircraft are excluded, for example the crash that killed Commerce Secretary Ron Brown that involved an Air Force CT-43 (a modified Boeing 737) .

Computation of Fatal Event Rates
The page listing fatal event rates for selected airlines or fatal events rates for selected models use a specific formula
for creating the values that takes into account the percentage of passengers killed . While only events killing passengers are included in the calculations, the number of flights for an aircraft model include types of flights, such as cargo flights, that are normally not considered by The effect is that fatal event rates are slightly lower than they would be if I strictly limited flight operations data to
relevant passenger flights. Definitions uses terminology such as 'fatal event' that is unique to the site and is distinctly different from safety and accident related terms used by organizations such as ICAO and NTSB.

Sources of Information only uses information that is accessible to the general public. While some of the the most detailed and wide ranging sources of information are available online, other offline sources have been used as well. The most reliable online sources include the accident and incident databases of the NTSB (you can search the entire database or search it by month) and FAA, as well as these resources:

Flight International Magazine has an excellent annual roundups of accidents and serious events (written by David Learmount), and they can be found through the site You have to use their internal search engine to find safety reviews, but it is worth it. Evey year the magazine publishes a comprehensive review of airline accidents and incidents, typically in one of the January issues of Flight International magazine.

The web site has a very comprehensive listing of accidents, incidents, and fatal events, plus a very easy to navigate online database of events.

The New York Times has usually been head and shoulders above most newspapers when it comes to details about famous events and many of the more obscure ones. They also allow online searches of their entire history of articles.

There are a few offline sources that may be much harder to get to, but
if you find them it could be quite useful:

NTSB: Many of their older (pre mid-1990s) studies and accident reports
are not online, but could be in Federal Depository libraries or some
university Libraries.

ICAO: This UN organization publishes accident summaries from around the world. Although many are in English, some are not. If you can find them at all, it will likely be at larger research libraries.

Creating Your Own Analysis Method
One last resource you may want to use is from the book ,
Understanding Aviation Safety Data. Written by's creator Dr. Todd Curtis, one of its chapters describes in detail the general method used to create much of the content of You can download this chapter at You can also take a free email-based course that covers the same material as this chapter. You can sign up for the "How to Ask an Aviation Safety Question" class at and get the lessons mailed to you over the course of a few weeks.

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