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How does 2014 air safety figures compare to previous years?
26 July 2014

The recent high-profile accidents involving in Ukraine (MH17), Taiwan (TransAsia flight GE222) and Mali (Air Algérie flight AH5017) raised some concerns in international media about air safety. So how does 2014 really compare to previous years?

Looking back at the first seven months of 2014, we can conclude that, safety wise, it is a year of extremes:

  • 2014 is among the years with the lowest number of fatal airliner accidents
  • 2014 is the 12th worst year since 1970 looking at the number of fatalities in the first seven months
  • January 2014 is the safest month in aviation history
  • July 2014 is the 5th worst month in aviation history

 

The ASN safety barometer shows there have been 12 fatal airliner accidents so far, which still is well below the ten year average of 17. That is, for the previous ten years, there had been 17 accidents during the first seven months of each year.
Since these twelve accidents also include cargo and training flights, let’s focus on passenger flights.

Five of these twelve accidents were passenger flights:

  1. 16 February 2014: DHC-6 Twin Otter of Nepal Airlines impacted a mountainside in Nepal, killing all 18 on board
  2. 8 March 2014: A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 goes missing over the Indian Ocean with 239 on board
  3. 17 July 2014: A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 crashes in eastern Ukraine after having likely been hit by a missile
  4. 23 July 2014: An ATR-72 of TransAsia Airways crashes while on approach to Magong, Taiwan in poor weather; 48 on board died
  5. 24 July 2014: An MD-83 operating for Air Algérie, impacts terrain in the Mali desert, killing all 118 on board

Just two years, 2012 and 2013, had a lower number of accidents by the end of July.

Fatal airliner accidents, concerning passenger flights, per year since 1970

Fatal airliner accidents, concerning passenger flights, per year since 1970

 

Sadly many lives (721) were lost in those five accidents making 2014 is the 12th worst year since 1970:

Number of airliner accident (passenger flights) fatalities per year since 1970

Number of airliner accident (passenger flights) fatalities per year since 1970

Zooming in on all individual months, January 2014 was the safest month in aviation history, along with several other months without any fatal passenger flight accidents.

Then again, due to the three severe accidents, July 2014 is the 5th worst month in aviation history:

 
Year Accidents Fatalities
August 1985 5 719
March 1977 5 623
December 1995 7 590
November 1996 5 496
July 2014 3 464

 

Statistics are based on data from the ASN Database, covering worldwide fatal accidents involving civil aircraft with a minimum capacity of 14 passengers.