The global jet accident rate in 2014 was the lowest in history and the equivalent of one accident for every 4.4 million flights, new Iata figures reveal.
This compared to an average of one accident every 2.4 million flights the previous year and was an improvement over the five-year rate from 2009.
The global commercial aircraft safety performance came despite the loss of two Malaysia Airlines aircraft.
There were 12 fatal accidents involving all aircraft types last year with 641 deaths, compared with an average of 19 fatal accidents and 517 fatalities per year in the five-year period from 2009.
More than 3.3 billion people flew safely on 38 million flights - 30.6 million by jet, 7.4 million by turboprop – the figures show.
The 73 accidents involving all aircraft types was down from 81 in 2013 and the five-year average of 86 a year.
Iata director general and chief executive Tony Tyler said: "Any accident is one too many and safety is always aviation’s top priority. While aviation safety was in the headlines in 2014, the data show that flying continues to improve its safety performance.
The year will be remembered for two “extraordinary and tragic events” — the losses of MAS flights MH 370 and MH 17.
Although the reasons for the disappearance and loss of MH 370 are unknown, it is classified as a fatal accident—one of the 12 in 2014.
The aviation industry has welcomed the proposal by the International Civil Aviation Organisation to move towards the adoption of a performance-based standard for global tracking of commercial aircraft, supported by multi-national operational assessments to evaluate impact and guide implementation.
The destruction of MH 17 by anti-aircraft fire over Ukraine is not included as an accident under globally-recognised accident classification criteria, according to Iata. The four aircraft involved in the events of 9/11 were treated in the same way.
"The shooting down of MH 17 took with it 298 lives in an act of aggression that is by any measure unacceptable,” said Tyler.
“Governments and industry have come together to find ways to reduce the risk of over-flying conflict zones. This includes better sharing of critical information about security risks to civil aviation. And we are calling on governments to find an international mechanism to regulate the design, manufacture and deployment of weapons with anti-aircraft capabilities.
"To the flying public an air tragedy is an air tragedy, regardless of how it is classified. In 2014 we saw a reduction in the number of fatal accidents—and that would be true even if we were to include MH 17 in the total.
“The greatest tribute that we can pay to those who lost their lives in aviation-related tragedies is to continue our dedication to make flying ever safer. And that is exactly what we are doing.”
Meanwhile, the British Airline Pilots’ Association says aircraft should be modified to send a burst of vital technical data from the cockpit as soon as aircraft behaves outside normal flight patterns a year on from the disappearance of MH370.
Balpa also welcomed the trial of improved tracking of aircraft flying in and out of Australia.
Pilots want this trial to lead to minimum global standards and technology in flight tracking to minimise the pain caused to the family of passengers and the crew while an aircraft is being located.
General secretary Jim McAuslan said: “Being able to locate a crashed aircraft, understand what has gone wrong and stop it happening again is vital to making every flight safe.
“With the right safeguards against misuse in place, pilots want more cockpit information to be transmitted when a flight gets into trouble and stored in a ‘virtual black box’.
“This would help to minimise the unacceptable anguish suffered by the families of the passengers and crew while they wait for information.
“Pilots also welcome the trialling of improved tracking technology and practices and want to work with airlines and regulators to establish minimum international tracking standards so that aircraft can be quickly found, wherever they are in the world.”
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