Missing AirAsia flight QZ8501: 2014 a 'very safe year' for flying despite series of disasters

It was the worst year for fatalities since 2014 before QZ8501 disappeared

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The Independent Online

Despite the huge loss of life in a succession of disasters including Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, MH17 and now, it is feared, AsiaAir flight QZ8501, it has still been a “very safe” year for flying.

Paul Hayes, the director of safety at aviation consultancy Ascend, told the Wall Street Journal that accident rates continue to decrease as more and more people take to the air.

“It will probably come as a surprise to most people, but really it was a very safe year,” he added.

If the 162 people on board QZ8501 were killed when it disappeared from radar over the Java Sea yesterday, it will bring the total fatalities this year to almost 1,500, making it the worst this decade.

According to the Bureau of Aircraft Accidents archives, there have been a total of 111 crashes with 1,320 people killed – the worst being the downing of MH17 in July, when 298 people died.

malayisa-plane-crash-5.jpgThat figure includes all types of aircraft, including private and military planes, but the figure for civil carriers is far smaller.

The Aviation Safety Network (ASN) puts its figure for passenger flights at 526 before QZ8501 in 19 accidents – below the decade’s average of 676 fatalities a year in 32 accidents.

“Remarkably, 2014 has the lowest number for passenger flight accidents in modern aviation history,” said founder and director Harro Ranter told Business Insider.

MH17 was excluded because it is believed to have been shot down and the the numbers only include accidents involving airliners with more than 14 passengers, excluding corporate and military.

MH370 with 239 people on board disappeared in March

In 1972, 2,370 people died according to the ASN, which records fatalities numbering over 1,000 for almost all years from the start of commercial aviation in the 1940s until the year 2,000.

The largest two incidents involving Malaysia Airlines planes - one over eastern Ukraine and the other in the Indian Ocean - led to the deaths of 537 people, while an Air Algerie crash in Mali killed 116 and TransAsia Airways crash in Taiwan resulted in another 49 deaths.

The aviation accident rate has been declining rapidly in recent decades as budget airlines allow more passengers to fly –  reaching an estimated 3.2 billion this year, up five per cent on 2013.

According to the International Air Transport Association, which represents 240 carriers taking 85 per cent of global air traffic, 2014 accident rates up to September were below the five-year average, with 2.1 crashes per 1 million flights.

Tony Fernandes, the chief executive of AirAsia, said the budget airline had never previously lost any lives.

“We have carried 220 million people up to this point,” he added. “Of course, there's going to be some reaction, but we are confident in our ability to fly people, and we'll continue to be strong and continue to carry people who never could fly before.”

No confirmed trace of QZ8501 has yet been found in the Java Sea and the search has been called off for the night.