Deficient safety management contributed to one in three accidents in 2008, a year in which the rate of Western-built hull losses worsened - although the fatality rate significantly improved.

The hull loss rate reached 0.81 per million flights in 2008, according to International Air Transport Association statistics, a deterioration from the figure of 0.75 per million for the previous year.

But the cost in human terms more than halved from 0.23 fatalities per million passengers to 0.13. The number of fatalities reached 502.

IATA has highlighted deficient safety management at airline level as a significant contributor, playing a part in 30% of overall accidents last year. It also says that runway excursions accounted for one in four accidents.

But IATA nevertheless points out that the figures demonstrate positive trends. "These statistics confirm that travelling by air is one of the safest things that a person can do," says director general Giovanni Bisignani.

While the former Soviet states generated the worst accident rate, 6.43, these figures are heavily influenced by a small proportion of Western-built aircraft.

Africa's accident rate of 2.12 is still relatively poor, although the numbers disguise a strong improvement over the past four years. The Sudanese Airbus A310 fire in June fell into a different IATA region, Middle East and North Africa, which worsened the area's accident rate to 1.89.

Latin American and Caribbean operators also turned in a poor performance. Five hull losses, including the TACA Airbus A320 accident at Tegucigalpa, resulted in an accident rate of 2.55.

North Asia, with no hull losses, as well as Asia-Pacific, North America and Europe - with rates of 0.58, 0.58 and 0.42 respectively - fared best.

Source: Flight International