The fatal accident rate in the world commercial fleet of large jet transports has been on a near plateau for more than 15 years since the absorption of the major advances made with the last generation of technology and operational systems.
Notwithstanding continuing technical advances, the increasing size of the world fleet demands more significant improvements if the actual number of accidents is to be reduced.
This paper promotes the view that a further overall increase in the safety of air transport from the high levels currently achieved is unlikely to come about by normal evolution. It suggests that what will be required in future is planned improvements, quantified by statistical safety assessment methods. Such assessment should encompass the totality of an integrated Air Transport System, as distinct from the current practice of assessing the Aircraft Airworthiness, Air Traffic Management, Flight Operations Management and Air Navigation systems in isolation. The setting of new targets for overall safety should derive from an integrated systems approach.
A relevant history of systems statistical safety assessment is reviewed, and certain aspects of cockpit automation and systems which may contribute to the future advancement of overall safety are considered.