While 2014 featured the tragic loss of life from the disappearance of MH370 and shooting down of MH17, in statistical terms the past year was one of the safest ever for commercial aviation.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) Safety Performance report said there were 12 fatal accidents involving all aircraft types in 2014, down from 16 the prior year and below the five-year average of 19.
Overall, about 3.3 billion people flew safely on 38 million flights in 2014.
“Any accident is one too many and safety is always aviation’s top priority,” IATA chief executive Tony Tyler said in a statement on Monday.
“While aviation safety was in the headlines in 2014, the data show that flying continues to improve its safety performance.”
IATA said there was on average one hull loss for every 4.4 million jet flights in 2014, which was the lowest rate in history and an improvement from one hull loss for every 2.4 million jet-operated flights in 2013.
Every region except Europe, which stayed the same, reported a lower jet accident rate in 2014 compared with the prior year.
A hull loss was defined as “an accident in which the aircraft is destroyed or substantially damaged and is not subsequently repaired for whatever reason including a financial decision of the owner”, IATA said.
The IATA report said the 12 fatal accidents in 2014 resulted in 641 fatalities, compared with the five-year average between 2009-2013 of 19 fatal accidents and 517 fatalities per year.
The disappearance of MH370 has been classified as an accident, while the shooting down of MH17 over Ukraine was not under international safety reporting standards, IATA said.
“To the flying public an air tragedy is an air tragedy, regardless of how it is classified,” Tyler said.
“In 2014 we saw a reduction in the number of fatal accidents—and that would be true even if we were to include MH 17 in the total.
“The greatest tribute that we can pay to those who lost their lives in aviation-related tragedies is to continue our dedication to make flying ever safer. And that is exactly what we are doing.”
IATA, which represents the world’s airlines, has 251 carriers as members covering about 84 per cent of global air traffic.
The industry body noted the all accident rate – which covers substantial damage and hull loss accidents – for its 251 members was 0.94 accidents per million flights in 2014, less than half the 1.92 accidents per million flights of the wider commercial aviation industry.
Airlines have to be certified by the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) before they can be members of the association.