Europe’s goal of developing a database that collects aviation occurrence reports from across the region and helps identify broad safety trends is moving closer to reality as both data quality and reporting consistency improve, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) reports.

The European Commission’s (EC’s) European Central Repository (ECR) has amassed nearly 665,000 aviation occurrence reports since 2005. The number of reports each year increased steadily as more countries began contributing; 2011 was the first year that all 31 EASA member states (MS) contributed reports.

The database lists 90,000-120,000 occurrences from each of the last four years, compared to 70,000 or fewer per year from 2005-2008.

“The pooling of such a large number of occurrences in a single database highlights the importance of the ECR for use by EASA and the EASA MS in their analysis because it provides a far greater amount of information that would be available to any single country through their own resources,” EASA says in its latest annual safety review, released earlier this month.

While data quantity is improving, quality remains a concern. Nearly half, or 48%, of the occurrence reports lack basic trending data, such as the type of operation—such as airline or general aviation—involved in each incident. Another 45% of the reports involved commercial transports, by far the largest identifiable category.

The database records other specific details, such as the category of occurrence—such as air traffic management, bird strike and ground handling—and the result.

The largest subset, about 20% of all occurrences in the database, fall under the “other” category. Further analysis showed that many of these were medical situations with passengers or crewmembers, leading EASA to create a new reporting category. The most common identified occurrence categories in the database are communications, navigation, surveillance/air traffic management (about 100,000 occurrences), system/component failure-non-powerplant (50,000), ground handling (30,000) and bird strike (30,000).

Top results of reported occurrences were aircraft return and missed approach (about 11,000 each), rejected takeoff (7,000), diversion (5,000) and declared emergency (4,000).

A “network of analysts” from within EASA, Eurocontrol, and the EC pour through the ECR data, EASA explains. The analysts review and attempt to improve the quality of existing data and the reporting efforts. Eventually, ECR-related findings will be combined with other information sources to help EASA prioritize safety improvement efforts.

“[T]he vision of the ECR being a vital resource for safety analysis at European Level is becoming a more realistic prospect,” EASA says.

A 2003 directive ordering Europe’s aviation stakeholders to develop a safety database kick-started the ECR effort. A 2007 regulation mandated that all EC states participate in the common reporting effort.