The number of people killed in large commercial airplane crashes rose in 2020 to 299 worldwide despite a sharp decline in flights due to the coronavirus pandemic, a Dutch consulting firm has found.
In 2020 there were 40 accidents involving large commercial passenger planes, five of which were fatal, resulting in 299 fatalities. In 2019 there were nearly double the number of accidents – 86 – eight of which were fatal, resulting in 257 fatalities, said aviation consulting firm To70.
Large commercial airplanes had 0.27 fatal accidents per million flights in 2020, To70 said, or one fatal crash every 3.7m flights – up from 0.18 fatal accidents per million flights in 2019.
Airlines drastically cut the number of flights they operated in 2020 as the pandemic took hold, with Flightradar24 reporting commercial flights it tracked worldwide in 2020 falling 42%, to 24.4m.
More than half of all deaths in the To70 review were the 176 people killed in January 2020 when a Ukrainian plane was shot down in Iranian airspace. The second deadliest incident was the crash of a Pakistan airliner in May in which 98 people died.
Large passenger airplanes covered by the statistics are used by nearly all travelers on airlines but exclude small commuter airplanes in service.
Over the past two decades, aviation deaths have fallen dramatically. As recently as 2005, there were 1,015 deaths aboard commercial passenger flights worldwide, the Aviation Safety Network (ASN) said.
Over the past five years, there has been an average of 14 fatal accidents for commercial passenger and cargo planes resulting in 345 deaths annually, ASN said.
In 2017, aviation had its safest year on record worldwide with only two fatal accidents involving regional turboprops that resulted in 13 deaths and no fatal crashes of passenger jets.
The United States has not had a fatal US passenger airline crash since February 2009 and only one fatality due to a US passenger airline accident in that period.