Airline accidents fall but number of deaths increase

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The number of airline accidents worldwide fell by nearly a fifth last year but the death toll grew because of a few high-casualty crashes, the top airline association says.

Some 685 people were killed in 90 accidents, compared to 109 accidents that claimed the lives of 502 people the previous year, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Thursday.

They included the Air France flight which plunged into the Atlantic Ocean last June, killing all 228 people on board, as well as the 189 people who died when a Yemenia Airways jet came down off the Comoro Islands a few weeks later.

"There were three or four large accidents with huge numbers of fatalities in 2009," IATA spokesman Anthony Concil told AFP.

The global accident rate dropped to the equivalent of one accident for every 1.4 million flights in 2009, some 36 per cent less than the rate recorded in 2000.

"Last year, 2.3 billion people flew safely. But every fatality is a human tragedy that reminds us of the ultimate goal of zero accidents and zero fatalities," said IATA Director General Giovanni Bisignani.

However, the accident rate is based on losses of Western-built jet aircraft, excluding smaller turboprops or Russian-built planes, a measure IATA said was consistent in the industry.

"At some point in the future we'll see if that's relevant or not, when some of the newer aircraft made by firms such as Sukhoi will be sold in greater volumes," Concil explained.

Old Soviet-era passenger aircraft were notoriously unreliable and crash prone.

Nineteen of the accidents last year involved Western-built jet aircraft compared to 22 in 2008.

Asia-Pacific's accident rate worsened, while Africa saw its already world-leading accident rate worsen sharply, according to IATA.

The association pinpointed "runway excursions" - largely problems during take off and landing - as a continuing challenge that accounted for more than a quarter of all accidents, despite a decline.

IATA represents about 230 airlines comprising 93 per cent of scheduled international air traffic.

Source: AFP

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