The number of accidents today is significantly lower than a comparable year more than 20 years ago
The number of flights on commercial jet aircraft was continuously growing prior to the effects of the pandemic. In spite of this growth, the number of accidents was decreasing each decade.
The number of flights in 2020 was less than half of the flights operated in 2019, and there were 3 fatal accidents recorded. When compared to a period with an equivalent number of flights, it is in contrast to the 10 fatal accidents recorded in 1998.
These figures illustrate the continuous enhancement of safety within the commercial aviation industry over recent decades. However, the number of accidents and flights will vary each year and it is the reason why accident rates are more relevant than reviewing the number of accidents per year when analyzing trends.
The rate of fatal accidents is steadily decreasing over time
There were far fewer flights in the 1960s, but a peak in the accident rates is shown due to the lower number of flights and the higher number of accidents recorded during this period. It can be difficult to compare accident data from this period with such a low volume of activity in the commercial aviation industry. However, the volume of flights over recent decades is sufficient to show that the fatal accident rate is continually decreasing.
Yearly fatal accident rate per million flights
Fourth-generation aircraft have the lowest fatal accident rate
Advances in technology have helped to reduce accident rates for each generation
The continual reduction in accident rates has been achieved by an ongoing commitment of the commercial aviation industry to enable a safe aircraft to be safely operated in a safe air transport system.
A notable part of this success is due to effective regulation, a strong safety culture, and improvements in training. Technological advances are also a crucial enabler for enhancing the level of safety. In particular, technologies introduced in aircraft systems intentionally evolved with improving safety as their aim.
Comparison of fatal accident rates by generation of aircraft provides a clear illustration of the value of commercial aviation industry investments in technology to improve safety. Fourth-generation aircraft have the lowest accident rate of all. In 2020, the fourth-generation fatal accident rate was 0.04 accidents per million flight cycles. This was approximately a third of the rate for third-generation aircraft.
10 year moving average fatal accident rate (per million flights) per aircraft generation