Last year was the safest in the history of commercial aviation, according to analyses by independent consultants.
For 2017, the Aviation Safety Network (ASN) recorded 10 fatal accidents involving large (more than 14 seats) air transport aircraft, resulting in 44 occupant deaths and 35 persons on the ground. Five of the crashes involved cargo flights and five were passenger flights. All the ground deaths happened in the crash of a Turkish Boeing 747 freighter in Kyrgyzstan.
The ASN calculates that with worldwide air traffic of about 36,800,000 flights, the 2017 accident rate was one fatal passenger flight accident per 7,360,000 flights. ‘This makes 2017 the safest year ever, both by the number of fatal accidents as well as in terms of fatalities,’ the ASN said.
There were no fatal crashes in jet engine passenger aircraft last year, anywhere in the world. The last such crash was in Colombia, in November 2016, when an Avro RJ85 crashed after fuel exhaustion. It has been more than two years since any aircraft crash has claimed more than 100 lives. That was the destruction of an Airbus A321 operated by Russian low-cost carrier Metrojet, over the Sinai, Egypt, in October 2015.
By comparison, the ASN recorded 16 accidents and 303 lives lost in 2016.
However, in a new year blog post, Adrian Young of Netherlands-based consultancy To70 cautioned against complacency. ‘Despite the good news, a note of caution needs to be sounded,’ Young said. ‘With only two fatal accidents to passenger airliners, both involving small turboprop planes, 2017 was much better than could reasonably (and statistically) be expected, and was again better than last year’s remarkable performance,’ he said.
Young concludes, ‘the extraordinarily low accident rate this year must be seen as a case of good fortune. Statistically speaking, in a dataset that starts with over thirty million flights, there is little difference between two accidents and ten accidents. That this year’s accidents only resulted in 13 fatalities is even greater fortune.’
That run of good luck was absent from general aviation in Australia, which was marred by several high-profile crashes in 2017. They included the crashes of a Grumman Mallard in Perth in January, a Beech Super King Air at Essendon, in February, a Cessna Conquest in South Australia in May, a Squirrel helicopter at Hobart in October and a DHC-2 Beaver north of Sydney on New Year’s Eve.