Air transportation occurrences in 2023

Gatineau, Quebec, 13 June 2024 — Building on the preliminary statistics published in February 2024, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released today its final annual statistical summaries from 2023 on transportation occurrences in the airmarinepipeline, and rail transportation sectors.

Air transportation

In 2023, a total of 1020 air transportation occurrences (accidents and incidents) were reported to the TSB, an increase of 14% over the previous year (894).

Of these occurrences, a total of 182 were accidents, a 10% increase from 2022 (166). Nineteen of these were fatal, resulting in 33 fatalities, which is down slightly from the 24 fatal accidents and 34 fatalities in 2022. Overall, the number of air transportation accidents has been decreasing in the last decade.

Accidents involving commercial operators increased 38% from 2022 (56) to 2023 (77), while those involving private operations decreased from 108 to 103.

Of the total occurrences, 838 were aviation incidents, which is an increase from the previous year (728).

Executive summary

The TSB received 1020 reports of air occurrences in 2023 (182 accidents and 838 incidents), including 33 fatalities.

A total of 182 accidents were reported in 2023. This number is 10% higher than the previous year and 17% below the yearly average of 220 accidents reported in the prior 10 years, 2013 to 2022. Most (169) of the accidents in 2023 took place in Canada and involved Canadian-registered aircraft. In general, the number of air transportation accidents has decreased in the last decade.

The TSB recorded 19 fatal air transportation accidents involving 33 fatalities in 2023. This is down slightly from 2022 and is 24% below the average of 25 fatal accidents involving 40 fatalities over the ten years 2013 to 2022. Thirteen of the 33 air transportation fatalities in 2023 involved commercial operations. There were no fatalities involving airliner operations (CARs 705), or commuter operations (CARs 704) in 2023. The remaining 20 (of 33) fatalities in 2023 were linked to privately registered aircraft and involved recreational operators. Two accidents in 2023 involved a release of dangerous goods.

The 2023 overall air transportation accident rate of 2.8 per 100 000 aircraft movements is among the lowest recorded by the TSB since it began measuring accident rate by movements in 2004. This accident rate was calculated based on the 156 accidents (12% more than in 2022) in Canada involving Canadian-registered and foreign airplanes and helicopters (ultralights and other aircraft types are excluded), and the estimated 5 502 000 aircraft movements at Canadian airports (6% more than in 2022).

Air transportation occurrences in 2023

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) gathers and uses transportation occurrence data during the course of its investigations to analyze safety deficiencies and identify risks in the Canadian air transportation system.

This statistical summary serves to describe the accident, incident, and injury counts that are presented in the included Tables. It provides limited discussion and some context but is not intended to be an in-depth analysis of the data.

It should be noted that certain characteristics of the data constrain statistical analysis and the identification of emerging trends. These include the small totals of accidents and incidents, the large variability in the data from year to year, and changes to regulations and definitions. The reader is cautioned to keep these limitations in mind when reading this summary to avoid drawing conclusions that cannot be supported by statistical analysis.

Throughout this document, there are instances where categories of occurrences sum to more than the total number of occurrences. For example, if a single occurrence involves an airplane and a glider, the occurrence count will increase by one in each aircraft category but the occurrence itself will be counted only once in the total of occurrences.

The 2023 data were collected according to the reporting requirements described in the Transportation Safety Board Regulations in force during that calendar year.

The statistics presented here reflect the TSB Aviation Safety Information System (ASIS) database at 12 March 2024. Since the occurrence data are constantly being updated in the live database, the statistics may change slightly over time.

Also, as many occurrences are limited to data gathering, information recorded on some occurrences may not have been verified.

The following discussion refers to data tables contained in this document.

COVID-19 impacts on civil aviation in Canada

Air transportation in Canada continued to rebound in 2023, after 3 years of significant disruption. Year-over-year demand for business and vacation travel increased and cargo activity remained high. Information collected by Statistics Canada indicates that total aircraft movements (take-offs and landings) at Canada’s major and selected small airports numbered 5.5 million, which was 5.5% higher than in 2022 and represented 89.6% of the pre-pandemic movements in 2019. While activity at Canada’s major and selected small airports is documented, it is difficult to estimate the amount of activity—commercial or private—at many small airports in Canada or off-airport entirely. Therefore, a full picture of activity in the aviation industry is lacking. Nonetheless, the activity patterns discussed here are indicative, and give partial context to the accident statistics presented in this document.

Total aircraft movements at major and selected small airports, by class (Source: Statistics Canada)
Figure 1. Total aircraft movements at major and selected small airports, by class (Source: Statistics Canada)Footnote3

Overview of accidents and fatalities

Accident counts

Air transportation occurrences (both accidents and incidents) are reportable to the TSB if they occur in Canada. Occurrences that take place outside of Canada are also reportable if they involve Canadian-registered aircraft, and meet the criteria laid out in the TSB Regulations.

In 2023, a total of 182 air transportation accidents were reported to the TSB (Table 1 and Figure 2). This number is 10% higher than the previous year’s total of 166 accidents and 17% below the yearly average of 220 accidents reported in the prior 10 years, 2013 to 2022. Most (169) of the accidents in 2023 took place in Canada and involved Canadian-registered aircraft. Seven accidents involving Canadian-registered aircraft took place outside Canada, and 6 accidents in Canada involved a foreign-registered aircraft. In general, the number of air transportation accidents has been decreasing in the last decade.

Reported air transportation accidents, 2013 to 2023.
Figure 2. Reported air transportation accidents, 2013 to 2023.

There were 159 accidents involving Canadian-registered aircraft (excluding ultralights) in 2023 (Table 2). This is 9% above the 2022 count of 146 accidents, but 34% below the average of 193 accidents in the preceding 10 years (2013 to 2022). If the 17 accidents involving ultralights are included in the count, there were 176 accidents involving Canadian-registered aircraft in 2023.

Aircraft type

Of the 182 air transportation accidents reported to the TSB in 2023, 131 (72%) involved fixed-wing, powered airplanes (other than ultralights) (Table 1), 32 (18%) involved helicopters, 17 (9%) involved ultralights, and 2 accidents (1%) involved all other types of aircraft, such as balloons, gyroplanes, gliders, airships, hang gliders, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). In the 10 years from 2013 to 2022, the average proportion of accidents involving each of these four categories of aircraft has remained constant: in each year, airplanes have been involved in roughly 75% of reportable accidents, helicopters in about 12%, ultralights in about 9%, and other aircraft in about 3%.

Operator type

There were 77 accidents that involved commercially operated aircraft of all types in 2023 (Table 1). This is 38% more than the 56 such accidents recorded in 2022, and 6% above the average of 72 accidents recorded in the 10 years from 2013 to 2022.

Commercially operated Canadian-registered airplanes were involved in 50 accidents in 2023 (Table 2 and Figure 3). Of those, 6 involved operations under Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs) Subpart 705 (airliners). This is greater than the 4 accidents involving Canadian-registered airliners in 2022, and the same as the average of 6 accidents per year recorded from 2013 to 2022.

Figure 3. Accidents involving Canadian-registered aircraft, excluding ultralights, by aircraft type and operation type in 2023, compared with the 2013 to 2022 average.

Accidents involving Canadian-registered aircraft, excluding ultralights, by aircraft type and operation type in 2023, compared with the 2013 to 2022 average.
Figure 3. Accidents involving Canadian-registered aircraft, excluding ultralights, by aircraft type and operation type in 2023, compared with the 2013 to 2022 average.

In 2023, there were 2 accidents involving a Canadian-registered commuter airplane operating under CARs Subpart 704 (Table 2), as well as 25 accidents involving air taxi operations (CARs Subpart 703)—13 involving airplanes and 12 involving helicopters. The 25 air taxi accidents are more than double those reported in 2022 (12) and are slightly above the average of 24 accidents per year occurring between 2013 and 2022. Flight training units operating under CARs Subpart 406 were involved in 25 accidents in 2023, of which 23 involved airplanes and 2 involved a helicopter. On average for the period 2013 to 2022, flight training units were involved in about 19 airplane and 1 helicopter accidents per year.

Overall, in 2023, 103 air transportation accidents involved non-commercial (i.e., private aircraft) operations (Table 1), compared to 108 in the preceding year. The 2023 total is 29% below the annual average of 144 accidents from 2013 to 2022. Of the 103 total accidents in the non-commercial (private aircraft) operations category, 76 involved Canadian-registered airplanes (Table 2), with 5 of these involving an airplane operating under CARs Subpart 604 having a Private Operator Registration Document (PORD).

Most operators of non-commercial (private) Canadian-registered aircraft are classified as recreational. Recreational operators are responsible for a significant amount of flying activity and tend to be involved in many accidents each year. In 2023, 92 accidents involved recreational operators of Canadian-registered aircraft—69 of them in fixed-wing airplanes (Table 2), 4 in helicopters, and 19 in other aircraft. These 92 accidents are 8% fewer than in the preceding year, and 31% fewer than the 10-year average number of accidents involving recreational Canadian-registered aircraft (134).

In addition to commercial and private operations, 2 accidents in 2023 involved State operators, and 1 accident was categorized as having another or unknown operation type (Table 1).

Province or territory

Ontario and British Columbia had the largest number of reported accidents in 2023, with 44 reported accidents in each province (all aircraft types, including ultralights), surpassing Quebec with 32 accidents (Table 7). Ontario averaged more accidents per year (54) in the 2013–2023 period than any other province or territory, with Quebec having the second-largest average accident count (44).

Altogether, 7 accidents that were reportable under TSB Regulations occurred outside Canada in 2023. These all involved fixed-wing airplanes: 2 were operating commercially and 5 privately (data not presented). While these 7 accidents equal the number from 2022, they are fewer than the average of 8 per year seen over the previous ten years.

When ultralights are excluded from the counts, many provinces and territories saw fewer accidents reported in 2023 than the average of the previous 10 years (Table 8 and Figure 4). Only British Columbia, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut had more than the average number of accidents.

Air transportation accidents involving Canadian-registered aircraft, excluding ultralights, in 2023 compared with the 2013–2022 average, by province or territory.
Figure 4. Air transportation accidents involving Canadian-registered aircraft, excluding ultralights, in 2023 compared with the 2013–2022 average, by province or territory.

Fatal accidents, fatalities, and serious injuries

The TSB recorded 19 fatal air transportation accidents resulting in 33 fatalities in 2023 (tables 1 and 4, and Figure 5). This is fewer than the 24 fatal accidents in 2022 and is 24% below the average of 25 fatal accidents over the ten years from 2013 to 2022. Of the 19 fatal accidents in 2023, 11 involved fixed-wing, powered airplanes, 4 involved helicopters, and 4 involved ultralight aircraft. All 19 of these occurrences involved Canadian-registered aircraft, with 18 occurring in Canadian airspace and one occurring in the United States (Table 7).

Fatal accidents and fatalities involving Canadian-registered aircraft, 2013 to 2023.
Figure 5. Fatal accidents and fatalities involving Canadian-registered aircraft, 2013 to 2023.

Thirteen of the 33 air transportation fatalities in 2023 involved commercial operations (Table 4): 4 of them under air taxi regulations (CARs 703), 4 under aerial work regulations (CARs 702), and 5 under flight training unit regulations (CARs 406). There were no fatalities involving airliner operations (CARs 705), or commuter operations (CARs 704). The remaining 20 fatalities were linked to privately registered aircraft and involved recreational operators. None of these involved an operator holding a Private Operator Registration Document (PORD) (CARs 604).

With regards to type of aircraft, 24 of 33 fatalities in 2023 resulted from accidents in fixed-wing powered airplanes, 5 from helicopter accidents, and 4 from ultralights (Table 4). Of the 33 total fatalities, 19 were pilots or crew members, 12 were aircraft passengers, and 2 were among persons on the ground.

Overall, 22 persons were seriously injured in aircraft accidents in 2023 (Table 5), which is 37% fewer than in 2022, and 25% below the average for the period 2013 to 2022. Seven persons were seriously injured in accidents involving commercial operations in 2023: none in airliners (CARs 705), 1 in a commuter aircraft (CARs 704), 3 in the air taxi sector (CARs 703), 2 in aerial work operations (CARs 702), and 1 with a flight-training unit (CARs 406). Also, during 2023, 13 persons incurred serious injuries in recreational operations. Two more people were injured in other operation types, including State-operated aircraft.

More information at https://www.bst-tsb.gc.ca/eng/stats/aviation/2023/ssea-ssao-2023.html

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