Commercial aircraft deaths worldwide up 15 percent

AP News
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Posted: Feb 23, 2011 1:01 PM
Commercial aircraft deaths worldwide up 15 percent

Deaths on commercial aircraft worldwide rose 15 percent last year while the overall accident rate involving Western-built jets fell to an all-time low.

Those figures were released Wednesday by the International Air Transport Association, a trade group for the world's airlines.

The group said 786 people died in 23 separate accidents last year, up from 685 deaths in 18 fatal crashes in 2009. The figures include all kinds of jets and turboprops operated on commercial flights but don't include private or military aircraft.

There were no fatalities involving U.S. airlines last year. The most recent fatal accident involving a U.S. airline was the February 2009 crash of a Continental Connection flight near Buffalo, N.Y., in which 50 people died.

The most common cause of accidents remained planes leaving the runway during takeoff or landing. Many incidents involved wet runways, or too much speed.

IATA said there was one serious accident last year for every 1.6 million flights operated with Western-built jets compared with one for every 1.4 million flights in 2009. It said 2.4 billion people flew safely on 36.8 million jet and turboprop flights last year.

The 2010 accident rate was about 6 percent lower than the previous best, in 2006, and 42 percent lower than reported a decade ago. The rate of serious accidents _ those in which the plane was destroyed or heavily damaged _ was lower among the roughly 230 airlines, including the big ones most familiar to travelers, that belong to IATA.

Accident rates were lowest in the former Soviet republics and North America, followed by North Asia and Europe. Rates were higher than the world average in the Asia-Pacific region, Middle East-North Africa and Latin America-Caribbean.

The highest rate was in Africa. IATA said African airlines accounted for 2 percent of worldwide passenger traffic but 23 percent of serious accidents.