The number of people killed in large commercial airplane crashes fell by more than 50% in 2019 despite a high-profile Boeing 737 MAX crash in Ethiopia in March, a Dutch consulting firm said.
Aviation consulting firm To70 said there were 86 accidents involving large commercial aircraft – including eight fatal incidents – resulting in 257 fatalities last year. In 2018, there were 160 accidents, including 13 fatal ones, resulting in 534 deaths, the firm said.
To70 said the fatal accident rate for large aircraft in commercial passenger air transport was 0.18 fatal accident per million flights in 2019, or an average one fatal accident every 5.58 million flights, a significant improvement over 2018. Fatality numbers include passengers, air crew and people on the ground killed in a plane accident.
Large passenger airplanes in the study are aircraft used by nearly all travellers on airlines worldwide but exclude small commuter airplanes in service, including Cessna Caravan and some smaller turboprop airplanes, according to To70.
On December 23, Boeing’s) board fired Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg after two fatal crashes involving the 737 MAX forced it to halt output of its best-selling jetliner. The 737 MAX has been grounded since March after an October 2018 crash in Indonesia and the crash of a MAX in Ethiopia in March killed a total of 346 people.
To70 said the aviation industry spent significant effort in 2019 “focusing on so-called ‘future threats’ such as drones.” But the MAX crashes “are a reminder we need to retain our focus on the basics that make civil aviation so safe: well-designed and well-built aircraft flown by properly informed and well-trained crews.”
The Aviation Safety Network said, despite the MAX crash, 2019 “was one of the safest years ever for commercial aviation.” The 157 people killed in March on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 accounted for more than half all deaths last year worldwide in passenger airline crashes.
Over the last two decades, aviation deaths around the world have been falling dramatically even as travel increases. As recently as 2005, there were 1 015 deaths aboard commercial passenger flights worldwide, the Aviation Safety Network said.
In 2017, aviation had its safest year on record worldwide with only two fatal accidents involving regional turboprops resulting in 13 deaths and no fatal passenger jet crashes.
Last week 12 people died when a Fokker 100 operated by Kazakh carrier Bek Air crashed near Almaty after take-off. In May, a Russian Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft caught fire as it made an emergency landing at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, killing 41.
The figures do not include accidents involving military flights, training flights, private flights, cargo operations and helicopters.