The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 casts a shadow over a set of excellent global airline safety figures for the first half of 2014, that would otherwise surpass previous records by a big margin.

However, MH370 cannot yet be declared an "accident". The official line at present is that its loss was probably the result of deliberate action by someone on board.

MH370 disappeared on 8 March. The Boeing 777-200ER was last seen on radar over the Andaman Sea, and no trace of it or the 239 people on board has been found since.

If this event is included as an accident – and the death of those on board is assumed – a preliminary estimate of airline fatal accidents in the first six months of 2014 shows six, and the total number of resultant deaths is 267.

That compares with the previous global best-ever period – January-June 2013 – in which there were nine fatal accidents and 58 fatalities.

If MH370 is omitted, the figures for this year are five fatal accidents and 28 fatalities – almost one-half the previous all-time record, and a tribute to the industry's safety endeavours.

Those figures include all fatal accidents involving all types of airline operations, incorporating pure freight and ferry flights.

Apart from MH370, the largest passenger aircraft involved in a fatal accident this year so far was a 19-seater Nepal Airlines de Havilland Canada Twin Otter. The other accidents all involved non-passenger operations.

These figures are an initial estimate made immediately upon completion of the period under study.

A full analysis of 2014 airline safety performance so far, the factors driving it and the changing risks of the modern airline operating environment will be published in the 29 July-4 August issue of Flight International. That will include analysis of significant non-fatal airline accidents.

Source: Flight International