This year is on course to be the safest ever for commercial aviation, with roughly one passenger fatality for every 7.1 million air travelers worldwide, a tribute in part to the quality of flight training available in the United States Flight Training Industry, and the growing industry overseas.
With only days left, 2011 appears set to replace the postwar record low rate of passenger fatalities, set in 2004 at one per 6.4 million passengers, according to Ascend, a leading aviation consulting firm in London.
“Safety is improving and it’s improving faster than the industry is expanding,” said Paul Hayes, director of safety at Ascend.
The record is best for carriers flying Western-built planes. This year, they have experienced one major crash per three million flights worldwide, roughly 49% better than in 2010 and roughly three times better than 2001, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a global trade group. The figure represents the industry’s best performance since IATA began collecting crash records in the 1940s.
The year is also closing with another notable record: the longest period in modern aviation without a single fatal airliner accident, according to Harro Ranter, president of the Aviation Safety Network, a nonprofit organization that tracks accidents and incidents.
Most of the aviation fatalities in 2011 occurred in Russia, Iran and African countries that have long faced air-safety problems, such as Angola and Congo.
The major accident rate in North America, for example, has remained flat at about one in 10 million flights, while in Africa the rate is roughly 40 times greater, according to IATA. But African aviation overall is generally far less dangerous than a few years ago, thanks to concerted efforts by local aviation officials and international regulators.