Despite the fact that 2017 saw some of the highest passenger numbers ever, To70, a Dutch-based aviation consulting firm reports that 2017 was the safest year on record for airline passengers. The firm reported that 2017 saw only two fatal accidents, both of which involved small turbo-prop aircraft; a total of 13 lives were lost.
No large commercial jets crashed in passenger service anywhere in the world.
”This makes 2017 the safest year ever, both by the number of fatal accidents as well as in terms of fatalities,” the group said.
These numbers don’t include crashes involving military transport aircraft. Even when including military jets, the Aviation Safety Network (ASN), also based in the Netherlands, reported that 2017 still had the “lowest [number of crashes and deaths] in modern aviation history.”
There were two crashes on New Year’s eve that weren’t accounted for in To70’s report since the aircraft (a seaplane in Sydney and a Cessna Caravan in Costa Rica) weighed under 5,700kg, which was the threshold for the report. The two crashes killed a combined 18 people.
The first fatal crash of the year (of those included in the report) occurred in October when the pilots of an Embraer Brasilia, which was operating as an air ambulance in Angola, lost control of the aircraft after an engine failure. Seven people were killed, including a patient onboard.
The next month, a Let 410 owned by Khabarovsk Avia crashed on landing at Nelkan in the Russian Far East. Six of the seven passengers died; a four-year-old girl was the only survivor.
A slightly higher number of people on the ground were killed due to cargo operations. In Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, a Turkish Boeing 747 cargo jet owned by ACT Airlines overshot a runway and came to rest in a village close to the airport. Thirty five people on the ground, as well as four crew members, were killed.
In St Maarten, a tourist near a runway of the Caribbean island’s airport was killed by jet blast.
Not only was 2017 the safest year for aviation yet, but new year’s Eve marked a record 398 day period in which no passenger airliner was involved in any sort of crash (fatal or non-fatal) and 792 days since a civil aircraft accident took more than 100 lives.
“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 International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), International Air Transport Association (IATA), Flight Safety Foundation and the aviation industry,” said To70 President Harro Ranter.
Adrian Young, a senior aviation consultant for To70 and the lead researcher of the firm’s report, says that the chances of a plane being involved in a fatal accident are now one in sixteen million. However, Young did say that 2017’s fortune may be hard to repeat.
“It is unlikely that this historic low will be maintained; in part, these very positive figures rest on good fortune. Nevertheless, the safety level that civil aviation has achieved is remarkable,” Young said. “The risks to civil aviation remain high as shown by the seriousness of some of the non-fatal accidents. [The risks include] the spectacular loss of the inlet fan and cowling of an engine on an Air France A380 [over Greenland in September] That the airplane continued to operate safely to a diversion airport and was then flown home for repair on three engines says a lot about the robustness of the airplane.”
The UK has the best air safety record of any major country. There hasn’t been a fatal accident involving a British airline since 1989. The last incident occurred on January 10, 1989, when 47 people died when a British Midland Boeing 737 crashed at Kegworth.
These numbers are significantly better than those of the last three years. Between 2014 and 2016, 1,606 people died as a result of 16 civilian aircraft crashes.
271 people died in seven major fatal accidents in 2016. Accidents in that year include a crash of an EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo which killed 66 people, and a LaMia jet carrying a Brazilian football (known as ‘soccer’ in the U.S.) team crashed due to a loss of fuel.
In 2015, 471 people died in four crashes. This death count included a Germanwings A320 whose first officer, Andreas Lubitz, deliberately crashed the plane into the French Alps.
In 2014, 864 people died as a result of five crashes. The largest incidents of 2014 include two lost Malaysia Airlines 777s. MH370 disappeared mid-flight and has yet to be found, while MH17 was shot down by a missile over eastern Ukraine.
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