Barring a big plane crash in the next week or so — highly unlikely — 2017 will edge last year out as the second-safest year in civil aviation history. This is a piece of very good news you won’t read anywhere else, because it’s not bad, disastrous or puerile, and features no celebs.
With just 11 days, there has not been one major crash of a large scheduled passenger aircraft this year, anywhere on the planet. As of today, just 301 people have died in air crashes in 2017 (less than New Zealand’s road toll!), 155 of them in eight military crashes and 39 because of a cargo plane crash.
The safest year for aviation so far was 2013, with 273 fatalities in 29 crashes, followed by last year, with 316 deaths in 19 crashes, measured by the Aviation Safety Network as involving planes with more than 12 seats. The worst year was 1972, with 2370 deaths, but far fewer people flew then.
None of the 37 fatal crashes so far this year involved a large jet, except for the cargo plane, (a 747 freighter, in Kyrgyzstan; 35 of the 39 deaths were people on the ground when the plane hit). All the rest bar three small Lear jets were turbo-props. The cargo plane apart, not one Boeing or Airbus jet has been in a fatal crash this year. Not counting the cargo and military deaths, just 107 people have died in civilian passenger aircraft.
This is despite more people flying in more planes every year: Commercial aircraft will carry about 4 billion passengers this year — more than half the world’s population. Only 10 years ago, the number was 2.5 billion. About 14,000 commercial planes are in the air at any one moment. They don’t crash into each other, or the ground, or mountains, or anything else because of the progress in navigation aids and onboard collision warning systems in the past three decades.
When you board your plane this week for your holiday, fly assured you will get safely to your destination, and celebrate — joyously — the stunning technology we humans have created in only the past century of the 200,000 years that our branch of the great apes family has walked upon this Earth.
Picture: A Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-200 arriving from Canberra at Wellington Airport.