Calendar year 2014 has turned out to be the best year ever for airline safety, according to Ascend, a Flightglobal advisory service. For many this may seem an unexpected result, given the perceptions created by the high-profile losses of two Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777s and the crash of an Indonesia AirAsia Airbus A320 just before year-end.

Ascend’s director of air safety and insurance, Paul Hayes, reveals that the global airline fatal accident rate in 2014 was one fatal accident per 2.38 million flights. On this basis 2014 was, narrowly, the safest year ever. The figures exclude the loss of Malaysia flight MH17 on the grounds that it was shot down by a missile and is considered a war risk loss, not an accident. Although doubts exist about the status of missing Malaysia flight MH370, that incident has been included in the fatal accident rates.

The previous “best year” was 2012, with a fatal accident rate of one per 2.37 million flights, Hayes says. The fatal accident rate for 2013 was one per 1.91 million flights. In 2011 the rate was one per 1.4 million and for 2010 one per 1.26 million. The average for the last five years is now about one per 1.75 million flights.