Jul 29, 2014

Is air travel becoming less safe?

We have witnessed three fairly big plane crashes in the last two weeks, and already nervous flyers are even more on edge. But is this an anomaly, or is air travel less safe than we think? Crikey's aviation reporter explains.

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

Although 465 people have died in three unrelated plane crashes in quick succession this month, there is no reason to think air travel is less safe than it used to be. In the past two weeks, the Malaysia Airlines MH17 atrocity killed 298 people in eastern Ukraine, a TransAsia Airways crash in Taiwan killed 48 -- not including reports of a small number of deaths in houses struck by the turbo-prop involved -- and a SwiftAir charter for Air Algerie killed 119 people in Mali. But there is no reason to think 2014 will be a "horror year" for air disasters, despite sensationalist headlines. These three graphics sourced from the Aviation Safety Network and crosschecked with some other sources show the decline of the death rate per passenger. The first graph, below, shows the body count each year from 1946 to 2014.

Note that the above graph showing 716 deaths for 2014 is in small disagreement with the figures from other years. The second graph below shows the count for all crashes in scheduled services since the end of 1945 in which one or more people, including flight crew, died.

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