Press release:

record low number of airliner accident fatalities in 2004

  Date: 1 January 2005
the Aviation Safety Network / Harro Ranter
Last year there were ten fatal events involving large passenger airliners throughout the world.  Of these ten,

 six involved jet airliners and four involved the kinds of propeller driven airliners commonly used in commercial
service in the U.S. and western Europe.  Two of these events were due to sabotage and involved airliners on domestic flights within Russia. 

Last year saw the first fatal event involving the CRJ series of regional jets, and it marked the first time in the
history of commercial aviation where there has been a three year period without at least one fatal event involving a large jet transport aircraft flown by a U.S. airline.  The last time there was such a fatal event was a November 2001 crash involving an American Airlines A300 in New York.


The Aviation Safety Network today released last year's airliner accident statistics showing a record low total of 425 airliner accident fatalities 1), as a result of 26 accidents. Africa still is the most unsafe region.

By comparison, the second-safest year, 1955, recorded 572 fatalities. With regards to the number of accidents, just one year was safer: 2003 when 25 accidents occurred.
The decreasing number of accidents is in line with the downward trend that started in 1989.

Despite the fact that 2004 was an extremely safe year, there is a reason for concern in Africa. It was again the most unsafe continent: 27% of all fatal airliner accidents happened in Africa, while the region only accounts for approximately 3 percent of all world aircraft departures. The moving 10-year average trend shows an almost continuous increase in the average number of fatal accidents for the last ten years.
On the other hand, trends show a decrease in the number of fatal accidents for North and South America over the past six years and notably for Europe, with just one fatal accident last year.

Another area for concern are cargo plane crashes. Half (13) of all accidents involved cargo planes.

Last year's accidents again highlighted the four aviation safety priorities, identified by the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF):

* Controlled flight into terrain (CFIT)
CFIT  occurs when an airworthy aircraft under the control of the flight crew is flown unintentionally into terrain, obstacles or water, usually with no prior awareness by the crew.
CFIT accidents in 2004 were probably responsible for about 30% of all fatal accidents. .

* Approach and landing
Twelve accidents happened in the approach and landing phase last year. On February 10 for instance when a Fokker 50 crashed on approach to Sharjah when both props went into reverse, killing 43 of the 46 occupants.

* Loss of control
Again several accidents last year can be attributed to a loss of control of some kind. In January for instance, a Boeing 737 entered a high-speed descent with an extreme bank angle until it struck the sea off Egypt.

* Human factors
It's too early to tell in what cases flight crew actions were a causal factor in accidents in 2004. However the March 4 crash of an Ilyushin IL76 cargo plane was attributed to poor intra-crew communication.
Please bear in mind that human factors does not mean "pilot error"; in human factors it is important to determine which mistakes were made, why, under what circumstances etc.

The Aviation Safety Network is an independent organisation located in the Netherlands. Founded in 1996, it has the aim to provide everyone with a (professional) interest in aviation with up-to-date, complete and reliable authoritative information on airliner accidents and safety issues.
The figures have been compiled using the airliner accident database of the Aviation Safety Network, the Internet leader in aviation safety information. The Aviation Safety Network uses information from authoritative and official sources like NTSB, ICAO etc.

More information (ASN Statistical Summary 2004 - full report)

Harro Ranter
the Aviation Safety Network

1) definitions
"An occurrence associated with the operation of an aircraft which takes place between the time any person boards the aircraft with the intention of flight until such time as all such persons have disembarked, in which a person on the airplane is fatally injured and the airplane is damaged beyond repair." This excludes criminal occurrences like hijackings and sabotage.

"Commercial multi-engine airplane which, in certificated maximum passenger configuration, is capable of carrying 14 or more passengers."


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