Belgium recorded ‘excellent’ air safety statistics in 2022, reported by aviation authority Skeyes (Belgocontrol) on 10 January. In total, Skeyes managed nearly 900,000 flights in Belgian airspace and at the country’s airports.
Air traffic has picked up again after years of reduced numbers due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite this uptick in flights flying above the country, Skeyes reported no severe incidents and only one major incident, one of the “best results in its history”, the authority reports.
According to Skeyes, a major incident relates to an aircraft or airport not assuring the safety, leading to a “crew avoidance manoeuvre”, an Air Traffic Control (ATC) instruction to reduce risk, or a “loss of separation” when aircraft do not keep a safe distance from each other or from structures.
A severe incident, of which there were none, involves near-collisions, narrowly avoiding terrain or aborted take-offs from closed or busy runways.
“Our employees are constantly undergoing training to keep up to date and further improve their professional qualities. Every day, they succeed in putting these qualities into practice for the benefit of the safety of aircraft, crews, passengers and cargo. We also invest intensively in the modernization, and updating, of systems and procedures,” said Johan Decuyper, CEO of Skeyes.
The official says that the 2022 results, the second best in the authority’s history, are evidence that Skeyes’ “efforts are paying off.” The company did not provide any information about the one major incident which took place in Belgium.
The improved safety results represent a significant recovery from previous years. In 2017, the Belgian Cockpit Association urged Skeyes to immediately take measures to improve Belgian air safety after the air traffic control agency suffered a technical breakdown. This was the third outage in two years.
Air traffic controllers accidentally unplugged a cable, cutting all primary and backup systems for ten minutes, effectively leaving air traffic controllers blind. Fortunately, this accident lead to no major incidents.
Back to 2019 levels
Traffic in Belgian airspace increased again last year, Skeyes reports, up 46% compared to 2021. Traffic at airports equally increased, with traffic at Brussels International Airport rising by 51% between 2021 and 2022.
Air traffic above Belgium is now getting increasingly closer to pre-Covid levels, despite disruptions caused by the Omicron variant at the start of 2022, as well as Russia’s war in Ukraine. Traffic in 2022 reached 81% of that recorded in 2019, in line with the European average of 83%.
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At some Belgian airports, air traffic has already surpassed 2019 levels. Traffic at Charleroi airport increased by 2%, and by 13% at Antwerp airport. Traffic at other airports is also approaching 2019 levels. Kortrijk airport is now just 3% shy of pre-Covid levels, 4% less in Ostend, 6% in Liège, and 24% less at Brussels International Airport.
It is now estimated that there will be a total return to pre-Covid air traffic levels in Europe by 2025. European aviation is still weighed down by the impacts of inflation, high fuel costs, and the impacts of Russia’s war in Ukraine.