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Aviation: 2018 - a good year for safety

When new year rolls around, the aviation industry traditionally looks back on what has gone before and asks: was the previous year a good one? And according to statistics just released by Aviation Safety Network, 2018 was much better than most on record - it was the third safest in history in terms of number of fatal accidents, and ninth in terms of lives lost.

In detail

Last year, 556 people were killed while travelling on 15 commercial flights, which involved 12 passenger services and three cargo operations. With 38 million airline flights having taken place during the 365 day period, the fatal accident accident rate was approximately one in every 2.5m flights. Almost 4.3bn people took to the air last year, meaning the odds of a passenger losing their life was around 1 : 7.7m. Flying therefore remains an extremely safe form of transport - far safer in fact than most other means of travel.

If the scope of the statistics is extended to include military operations, 917 lives were lost on 25 flights in 2018 - the higher number not helped by the loss of an Algerian Air Force Ilyushin Il-76 cargo plane with 257 people on board on April 11.

Fifteen accidents involving commercial flights took 556 lives in 2018

Data: Aviation Safety Network

Actually the figures for 2018 are not as good as the rolling five year average (14 accidents / 480 lives lost per annum), and don't compare favourably to the all-time best in 2017 when there were only 10 accidents and 44 lives lost. Nevertheless, Aviation Safety Network’s CEO Harro Ranter explained that the accident rate for commercial flights has improved significantly since the turn of the millennium: “If the accident rate had remained the same as ten 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.”

The loss of Lion Air flight 610 was the most significant accident of 2018, and the first to involve a Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. (Photo: PK-REN)

The most controversial loss of the year involved Lion Air flight 610 on October 29, the first fatal accident involving the new-generation Boeing 737 MAX. Investigations into the route cause of the tragedy continue with maintenance, software and pilot control all being subject to scrutiny.