Deadly aviation year, yet safety record improving-IATA
The loss of Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501 would cap one of the deadliest years in civil aviation for almost a decade - yet experts say the industry's underlying safety record is improving, Reuters reports.
This year has seen two Malaysian catastrophes and a handful of weather-related incidents, thought statistics reveal a record-low number of crashes.
Even before an Indonesia AirAsia Airbus 320 jet with 162 people on board went missing in bad weather on Sunday between the Indonesian city of Surabaya and Singapore, 762 people had perished in seven fatal accidents throughout 2014.
If all those on board Flight QZ501 have been killed, 2014 would become the worst year for loss of life in civil aviation since 2005, when 1,014 people were killed in passenger accidents, according to Aviation Safety Network, which runs an independent database.
The number of fatal accidents in 2014 would stand at eight, if Flight QZ8501, compared with 24 in 2005.
"Remarkably, 2014 has the lowest number for passenger flight accidents in modern aviation history," said Harro Ranter, founder and director of Aviation Safety Network.
A combined total of 537 people were on board Malaysian Airlines' Flight MH370, which went missing on March 8 and has not been found. Flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine on July 17.
In July, bad weather killed 48 people in a Transasia Airways aircraft when tried to land in Taiwan and 116 people when a Swiftair jet operated by Air Algerie crashed in northern Mali.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents about 250 airlines, said earlier this month that 2014 was among the safest when measured against the volume of traffic.
In 2009, according to IATA, there was one "hull loss" for every 1.5 million flights, which translates to 0.67 for every 1 million flights.
As of 30 September, the 2014 jet hull loss rate stood at 0.22 per million flights. The average rate for IATA members, which does not include most low-cost airlines, was 0.37 over the last five years, and these figures only include Western-built jets.
Although rare, accidents involving a loss of control, such as those which sometimes occur during severe weather, are nearly always catastrophic.
In 2013, only three percent of accidents involved a loss of control during flight, but these accounted for 60 percent of that year's fatalities, according to the U.N. International Civil Aviation Organization.