Although last year there was a significant increase in air crash fatalities compared with 2017, it was still the ninth safest year in the history of air travel, statistics show. In 2018, 556 people died in airplane accidents compared with 44 in 2017, the Aviation Safety Network (ASN) reports.
The worst civilian accident of the year was in October when Lion Air Flight 610, a Boeing 737 MAX 8, plummeted into the Java Sea just 13 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta in Indonesia, killing all 189 people on board. 2017 was the safest year in history for commercial air carriers with no passenger plane crashes recorded.
The ASN, which is based in the Netherlands, says there were several fatal aircraft accidents in 2018, including the Lion Air crash, in which the plane was believed to have not been airworthy. Also, a plane crashed after takeoff in Havana, Cuba killing 112 people, another crash in the Zagros mountains of Iraq killed 66 people, and a crash landing at the Kathmandu Airport in Nepal killed 51 people.
Overall, though, airplane safety has increased in the past 20 years. "If the accident rate had remained the same as 10 years ago there would have been 39 fatal accidents last year," ASN CEO Harro Ranter says. "At the accident rate of the year 2000, there would have been even 64 fatal accidents. This shows the enormous progress in terms of safety in the past two decades."
Despite the progress, the ASN says that loss-of-control (LOC) accidents, which refer to unrecoverable deviations from a projected flight path, are a major safety concern for the airline industry since these account for at least 10 of the deadliest 25 accidents in the last five years. LOC accidents are usually caused by mechanical failure, human error or unforeseen environmental turbulence.
Globally, there are an estimated 37,800,000 flights a year, and the accident rate is one fatal accident per 2,520,000 flights.
Nearly half of the worst crashes in the past five years were due to loss of control (LOC) and "not survivable", according to the Aviation Safety Network. https://t.co/nSELEQNNLZ— 10 News First Sydney (@10NewsFirstSyd) January 2, 2019
“If the accident rate had remained the same as 10 years ago, there would have been 39 fatal accidents last year. At the accident rate of the year 2000, there would have been even 64 fatal accidents. This shows the enormous progress in terms of safety in the past two decades,” said ASN CEO Harro Rante.
Despite the statistics, however, flying is still the safest form of travel. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2015, there were 32,166 fatal motor vehicle accidents resulting in more than 35,000 deaths, which equals 1.13 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, and roughly 11 people for every 100,000 U.S. residents.
In comparison, in 2015, statistics show a total of 27 total aircraft accidents, none of which were fatal. Of the accidents reported, one million miles flown came in at a rate of 0.0035. In other words, Americans have a 1 in 114 chance of dying in a car crash, according to the National Safety Council, yet the odds of dying in an aircraft accident are 1 in 9,821.