• Generations of Jet

Technology’s contribution to aviation safety

The huge reduction in the accident rate has only been achieved by a long and ongoing commitment by the commercial aviation industry to place safety at the heart of its mission. Whilst a significant part of this success is due to effective regulation, a strong safety culture and improvements in training, advances in technology have also been a critical element. Aircraft systems technology in particular has conscientiously evolved with safety in mind.

The first generation of jets was designed in the 1950s & ‘60s with systems technologies which were limited in their capabilities by the analogue electronics of the era. A second generation of jet aircraft with improved auto-flight systems, soon appeared.

The third generation of jets was introduced in the early 1980s. This generation took advantage of digital technologies to introduce ‘glass cockpits’ with Navigation Displays and Flight Management Systems (FMS). Combined with improved navigation performance capabilities as well as Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS), these capabilities were key to reducing Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) accidents.

The fourth and latest generation of civil aircraft was introduced in 1988 with the Airbus A320. Fourth generation aircraft use Fly-By-Wire (FBW) technology with Flight Envelope Protection functions. This additional protection helps to prevent Loss Of Control Inflight (LOC-I) accidents. FBW technology is now the industry standard and is used on all currently produced Airbus models as well as the Boeing B777 & B787, Embraer E-Jets and the Sukhoi Superjet.

1

Early commercial jets

From 1952

Dials & guages in cockpit. Early auto-flight systems

Comet, Caravelle, BAC-111, Trident, VC-10, B707, B720, DC-8, Convair 880/990

2

More Integrated auto-flight

From 1964

More elaborate auto-pilot and auto-throttle systems

Concorde, A300, Mercure, F28, BAe146, VFW 614, B727, B737-100 & -200, B747-100/200/300/SP, L-1011, DC-9, DC-10

3

Glass cockpits & FMS

From 1980

Electronic cockpit displays, improved navigation performance and Terrain Avoidance Systems, to reduce CFIT accidents

A300-600, A310, Avro RJ, F70, F100, B717, B737 Classic & NG/MAX, B757, B767, B747- 400/-8, Bombardier CRJ, Embraer ERJ, MD-11, MD-80, MD-90

4

Fly-By-Wire

From 1988

Fly-By-Wire technology enabled flight envelope protection to reduce LOC-I accidents

A220, A318/A319/A320/A321, A330, A340, A350, A380, B777, B787, Embraer E-Jets, Sukhoi Superjet

Comparison of accident rates by generation of aircraft provides a clear illustration of the value of our industry’s investments in technology for Safety.

Statistics over the life of each generation of jet show a significant improvement in the level of safety since the introduction of third generation aircraft and the latest fourth generation. Introducing TAWS technology with the third generation aircraft saw a huge reduction in the number of CFIT fatal accidents when compared to the previous first and second generations.

The benefits of Fly-By-Wire technology and energy management systems can also be seen in the lower number of LOC-I and RE accident rates for fourth generation aircraft when compared with its previous third generation.

More detailed analyses of the impact of these technologies are introduced on the following page.

Average fatal accident rate (per million flights) per accident category 1958-2019

 



Average fatal accident rate by accident category 1958-2018

10 year moving average hull loss rate (per million flights) per aircraft generation

 
10 year moving average hull-loss rate by aircraft generation

Yearly number of flights by aircraft generation

Airbus aircraft flew 79% of the flights made by fourth generation jets in 2019

In 2019, nearly 36 million flight departures were made globally. Among these, 19 million were made by fourth generation jets, of which Airbus models accounted for 15 million.

Yearly number of flights per aircraft generation (in millions)

 
Yearly number of flights by aircraft generation millions per year

Industry status at end 2019

Aircraft in-service

Total accumulated flight cycles (million)

Flight cycles in 2019 (million)

Generation 1

3

40.6

0.0

Generation 2

200

254.9

0.2

Generation 3

12,068

410.9

16.9

Generation 4

14,405

200.6

18.7

Industry status at end 2019

Aircraft in-service

Total accumulated flight cycles (million)

Flight cycles in 2019 (million)

Generation 3

12,068

410.9

16.9

Generation 4

14,405

200.6

18.7