Airliner Fatalities Increased by 900% in 2018
2018 was another recording-setting year for the airline industry, with 4.5 billion passengers having flown on more than 45 million flights globally. 2018 also brought with it record-breaking flight achievements thanks to new advanced aircraft.
While on the surface 2018 looked like a great year for the airline industry, a new report shows that this past year has been the deadliest year for commercial air travel since 2014. (Overall, 1972 yielded the most fatalities on board commercial aircraft with 2,380 fatalities that year.) The Aviation Safety Network is reporting that the number of fatalities on commercial flights increased by 900% from the year 2017 to 2018. This past year, 555 fatalities were reported on board commercial flights. Most of these fatalities occurred across just three flights. 2017, in comparison, was the safest year for commercial air travel on record, with just 59 fatalities reported that year.
In 2018, major incidents occurred in Indonesia, Russia and Cuba. The incident that resulted in the highest number of fatalities took place in Indonesia when Lion Air flight JT610 plummeted into the Java Sea. The crash killed all 189 passengers and crew on board. The crash is still under investigation but is likely the result of a faulty anti-stall feature found on the Boeing 737 MAX 8. Other major incidents that attributed to the increase in fatalities include:
- Saratov Airlines flight 703 from Moscow to Orsk, Feb. 11, Antonov An-148, 71 Fatalities (All)
- Iran Aseman Airlines flight 3704 from Tehran to Yasuj, Feb. 18, ATR 72-212, 66 Fatalities (All)
- US-Bangla Airlines flight 211 from Dhaka to Kathmandu, Mar. 12, Bombardier Q400, 52/71 Fatalities
- Cubana de Aviacion flight 972 from Havana to Holguin, May 18, Boeing 737-200adv, 112/113 Fatalities
In addition to 2018 being the deadliest year for commercial air travel since 2014, this past year also saw the first fatal accident involving a US-based airline since Colgan Air flight 3407 in 2009. This single fatality occurred when debris from the left engine on Southwest Airlines flight 1380 from New York-LGA to Dallas-Love Field punctured the side of the plane's fuselage, partially ejecting a passenger from the aircraft. Though the passenger who was ejected from the aircraft survived the initial incident, she later died from her injuries.
While a 900% increase in fatalities sounds problematic, air travel remains one of the safest modes of transportation. 555 fatalities out of 4.5 billion passengers means that the odds of dying in a plane crash are still extremely low.
More so, though the majority of 2018's fatal incidents are still under investigation, pilot error is often the main reason planes crash (the two incidents that appear to be related to equipment failure include Southwest Airlines flight 1380 and Lion Air flight 610). Essentially, commercial aircraft remain some of the safest vehicles on the face of the Earth.