The numbers don’t lie…2018 was a comparatively bad year for commercial aviation safety. But let’s keep things in perspective.
2018 marked an all-time high in number of flights and passengers carried: 4.5 billion passengers on 45 million flights. As of today, 16 accidents have claimed the lives of 555 passengers in 2018. 555 is a sobering number, not just a stat. Last year, only 59 lives were lost globally in passenger airline accidents.
If you count the Malaysia Airlines 777 that was shot down by Russians over Ukraine, 2014 was a slightly deadlier year. But you have to go back to 2010 to find a deadlier year than 2018 if you exclude freak accidents like the downing of two Malaysia Airlines jet under mysterious circumstances.
February 11th – March 12th was the worst month-long period, in which crashes in Iran, Nepal, and Russia killed 195 passengers. Let’s also not forget the Cubana 737-200 in Havana that killed 112 of 113 passengers onboard.
In April, a window blew on Southwest Flight 1380, killing one passenger. It was Southwest’s first-ever fatality.
Perhaps the most notable crash this year was Lion Air Flight 610, which killed 193 people and has called into question the safety of the new Boeing 737 MAX. Read this fascinating New York Times story for a better understanding of what appears to be serious structural defects in this new aircraft.
Yes, it was not a great year. But whenever some idiot wants to scold me for “risking my life” by flying, let me draw this point of comparison:
According to the UN World Health Organization, over 1.25 million people die every year from traffic-related deaths. I’ll spare you all the other statistics contrasting airline safety versus other tasks we do on a daily basis. From a risk perspective, flying is so much safer than almost any activity we occupy our day with.
My point is simple: flying remains one of the safety activities you engage in. Don’t let the numbers alarm you. Even so, let’s hope that airlines, aircraft manufactures, and regulators work together to make 2019 a much safer year.
image: Marc-Antony Payne / Wikimeida Commons (from 2008)