A rise in the number of passenger and crew fatalities made 2018 disappointing in comparison with the previous year – though 2017 was exceptionally safe.

Flight Ascend Consultancy analysis shows a total of 515 passengers and crew were killed in 10 airline accidents during 2018, including 482 revenue passengers. Where there was a similar number of fatal accidents to the nine recorded in 2017, only 39 passengers and crew died in these crashes. Only five revenue passengers were killed that year.

The number of passengers and crew fatalities last year was the highest since 2014, when the figure was 588. But while it is worse than the current decade's average of about 400 per annum, it is well below the previous decade's average of nearly 800.

With so few accidents but the potential for a large number of fatalities in a single one, it does not make sense to try to draw conclusions – positive or negative – from a single year. The long-term trend is still for ever-improving safety. Nowadays, some nine or 10 fatal accidents might be expected each year worldwide, and the number of fatal accidents in 2018 is in line with this trend. Unfortunately, unlike in 2017, some of the accidents in 2018 resulted in a high loss of life.

Putting the number of accidents within the context of total flights undertaken serves to further illustrate the improved safety record of the industry. Preliminary figures show the overall fatal accident rate in 2018 as one per 4.55 million flights. On this basis, 2018 was the third-safest year ever – only surpassed in 2015, when there were eight fatal accidents, giving a fatal accident rate that year of one per 4.9 million flights, and in 2017, when the fatal accident rate was one per 4.83 million flights.

However, from passengers' point of view, 2018 was only the fifth-safest year, as there was a lower passenger fatality rate in four of the last five years. With 482 revenue passenger fatalities in 2018, the accident rate worsened to one passenger fatality per 9.7 million carried. This was worse than the five-year average passenger fatality rate of one per 15 million passengers carried and the long-term trend, which is currently one per 18 million passengers carried.

On average, from the point of view of passengers, these statistics suggest that the airline industry as a whole is now about three times safer than it was as recently as 10 years ago; and 10 times safer than 20 years ago.

Editor's note: The accident statistics in this report are for commercially operated jet or turboprop-powered airliners or commuters carrying more than 14 passengers or their cargo equivalent and exclude operations by piston-engine aircraft, helicopters or smaller jet or turboprop aircraft. Therefore, the fatal accident to the Ju-Air Junkers Ju52/3m HB-HOT that crashed on 4 August 2018 killing all on board, three crew and 17 passengers is excluded.

This article is an extract from the 2018 Flight Ascend Consultancy's Airline Safety and Losses annual review, available in the report section.

Source: Cirium Dashboard