Passenger aircraft have safest year on record in 2017

Posted on 2 Jan 2018 by Michael Cruickshank

2017 was officially the safest year on record for the operation of commercial passenger aircraft according to a newly-released tally of accidents.

2017 was a record low year for aircraft crash fatalities. Image courtesy of Flickr - Bill Abbott
2017 was a record low year for aircraft crash fatalities. Image courtesy of Flickr – Bill Abbott

Compiled by aviation consulting company ‘to70’, the Civil Aviation Safety Review detailed a year with a death toll which they describe as “much better than could reasonably (and statistically) be expected”.

Most notably, last year was the first in recent memory where there was not a single fatality caused by the crash of a passenger jet aircraft.

In previous years the death tolls from these crashes had ranged into the hundreds, with 2014 being a particularly bad year with over 800 deaths.

Nonetheless, fatalities did still occur last year in the operation of passenger propeller aircraft, and commercial cargo jets.

These remarkable results come at a time when the overall number of passengers flying is on the increase with an estimated 35 million flights occurring in 2017.

Indeed the risk of dying while flying in a passenger aircraft now stands at a level of one fatal accident per 16 million flights.

2017 aircraft accident chart. Image courtesy of to70.
2017 aircraft accident chart. Image courtesy of to70.


Improving safety in the aviation industry

These figures show that safety in the aviation industry is continuing to improve, both through better plane maintenance and better pilot training.

New aircraft continue to boast better safety features than those in the past, and new technology is enabling greater levels of pilot awareness.

Autopilot technology also likely improved the safety of aircraft, with fully-autonomous passenger planes now technically (if not legally) feasible.

As well, the release of this new report underscores just how safe flying in an aircraft is when compared to driving a motor vehicle, something which itself may see massive increases in safety due to autonomous driving in the near future.

The luck factor

One further factor which the to70 report details is good fortune. They warn that statistically, 2 crashes is not significantly different from 8 and that the zero fatalities of 2017 may have simply been incredibly good luck.

Moreover, they point to several very serious non-fatal accidents which occurred over the course of the year, as evidence that something could easily go wrong, even in the newest and most well-maintained aircraft.