Saturday 23 June 2018

2017 was the safest year in aviation history – but which was the deadliest?

A commercial jet approaches Princess Juliana airport in Saint Maarten (2013). Photo: Deposit
A commercial jet approaches Princess Juliana airport in Saint Maarten (2013). Photo: Deposit

Oliver Smith

Nervous fliers, take note. Air travel has never been safer. In fact, 2017 was, by some distance, the safest year in aviation history.

According to the Aviation Safety Network (ASN), which records all air crashes and incidents reported around the world, there were just 10 fatal accidents involving commercial flights last year, resulting in 44 deaths.

This is down from 16 fatal accidents and 302 deaths in 2016. Furthermore, none of 2017's fatalities involved a passenger jet.

“Since 1997 the average number of airliner accidents has shown a steady and persistent decline, for a great deal thanks to the continuing safety-driven efforts by international aviation organisations such as ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organization], IATA [International Air Transport Association], Flight Safety Foundation and the aviation industry,” said Harro Ranter, president of ASN, in a statement.

Those 10 fatal accidents from 2017 included five cargo flights and five passenger flights using turboprop aircraft.

Given that around 36.8 million passenger flights took to the sky last year, that works out at just one fatal accident for every 7.36 million departures.

U.S. Navy LT JG Curtis Calabrese takes notes on board of a U.S. Navy Lockheed P-3C Orion patrol aircraft from Sigonella, Sicily, Sunday, May 22, 2016, searching the area in the Mediterranean Sea where the Egyptair flight 804 en route from Paris to Cairo went missing on May 19. (AP Photo/Salvatore Cavalli)
U.S. Navy LT JG Curtis Calabrese takes notes on board of a U.S. Navy Lockheed P-3C Orion patrol aircraft from Sigonella, Sicily, Sunday, May 22, 2016, searching the area in the Mediterranean Sea where the Egyptair flight 804 en route from Paris to Cairo went missing on May 19. (AP Photo/Salvatore Cavalli)

It has been exactly 400 days (as of January 2) since the last fatal accident involving a passenger jet (LaMia Flight 2933, on November 28, 2016, in which the Brazilian Chapecoense football team was travelling), and 794 days since an accident that claimed more than 100 lives (Metrojet Flight 9268, which came down on October 31, 2015, after leaving Sharm El Sheikh International Airport, probably due to a bomb).

Among the deadliest years in recent history was 2014, when 18 accidents involving commercial flights saw 961 perish (the two Malaysia Airlines crashes being the most high profile). More than 1,000 deaths per calendar year was commonplace until just over a decade ago. In 2005 there were 1,056. The figure for 1996 was 1,924.

But the deadliest year of all time was 1972, when 2,469 people died in 55 accidents involving commercial flights - a number that's all the more remarkable when you consider how few departures there were compared with today (around 9.5 million).

A total of 11 crashes saw at least 100 perish that year, including four Aeroflot flights, and others involving Iberia, Sterling Airways, Alitalia, British European Airways, Interflug, Spantax and Eastern Air Lines.

Fearful fliers should be grateful the Seventies are over. The following year, 1973, saw 2,223 fatalities in 49 crashes. The carriers involved in the biggest disasters that year included Royal Jordanian, Libya Arab Airlines, Invicta International Airlines, Varig and Pan Am. And, of course, Aeroflot, which had a staggering 17 crashes that year.

In 1974 there were 2,065 deaths in 46 accidents (eight involving Aeroflot). It should be noted that safety standards have improved drastically at the Russian airline since then - it hasn't been involved in a fatal accident since 1996.

During every year in the Seventies, there were more than 1,000 deaths, making it comfortably the deadliest decade on record.

Telegraph.co.uk

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