4.5 billion passengers flew on almost 45 million flights in 2018, setting a record. Though this might be a statistic to celebrate, 2018 was only “average” in terms of safety.
Sixteen aviation accidents caused as many as 555 deaths in 2018. This is a significant rise over 2017, when only 13 people died, and is higher than a recent average.
Dutch safety consultancy To70 reports that there were 160 accidents involving large passenger aircraft in 2018. In 147 of these crashes, 92% of the total, nobody died. Of the remaining 13 crashes, the October crash of a Lion Air 737 MAX killed the most people: 189.
Three aircraft crashed within a month, from February 11 to March 12, at the start of the year.
The first crash of the year was a Saratov Airlines An-148. It crashed 50 miles south of Moscow, and 71 people died. The next crash was an Iran Aseman Airlines ATR 72, which crashed in the Zagros Mountains on a flight from Tehran to Yasuj. 66 people died. A US Bangla Airlines Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 crashed at Kathmandu Airport on March 12. Out of 71 on board, 52 people died.
On April 16, an engine on Southwest Airlines flight 1380 exploded mid-flight and punctured part of the fuselage. A passenger was partially sucked out of the window. They later died from injuries. It was Southwest’s first fatality in its 47-year history
Later, on May 18, a Cubana Boeing 737, which was operated by Global Air, crashed after taking off from Havana. One person survived, but 112 people died. Global Air was grounded shortly after.
A Junkers Ju-52 crashed in Switzerland on August 4. It was the only fatal accident in Europe this year. 20 people onboard the sightseeing flight died, and an investigation is ongoing.
About a week later, on August 10, Richard Russell, a ground agent at Horizon Air in Seattle, hijacked an Alaska Air Bombardier Q400 and crashed it south of Tacoma. His was the only death.
On September 28, an Air Niugini Boeing 737 crashed in a lagoon on Chuuk, a Micronesian island.
Despite all of these deaths, flying is among the safest forms of travelling. In 2018, one death occurred in 1 of every 2.8 million flights. Airlines that have passed the International Air Transport Association’s Operational Safety audit are 75% safer than average. In contrast, 1.25 million people die in cars every year.
These deats come after one of the safest years on record for aviation. No major passenger airline recorded a death in 2017.
“Sadly, the historical lack of fatal civil aviation accidents involving large turbojet-powered passenger aircraft in 2017 was not to be continued in 2018,” said Adrian Young, Senior Aviation Consultant at To70. “In fact, the number rose to slightly above the most recent five-year average. Whilst accidents in commercial air transport remain rare, the industry must remain alert.”
Featured image by David Xian/Aeronautics Online