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Despite the tragedy, the real story of commercial aviation is increasing safety

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The world is mourning the 150 people feared dead after a Germanwings Airbus A320 crashed near the French Alps.

Passenger plane crashes are high-profile, devastating events that attract massive media attention. Last year saw two aviation stories - the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 and the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 above Ukraine - dominate the news agenda.

But while undoubtedly tragic, and difficult to accept given the circumstances, air travellers should be aware the long-term trend is one of increasing flight safety.

As this chart from Statista shows, according to the Aviation Safety Network 692 people died in 20 airliner accidents worldwide last year, more than double the number of victims in 2013.

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But in 1996 the figure was 1,845, while in 1972 2,373 people died in the deadliest-ever year for commercial flights since records began in 1942.

As an aside, according to the Guardian, Professor Gerd Gigerenzer estimated that an extra 1,595 Americans had died in car accidents the year after the September 11 terror attacks as a result of people taking to the roads instead of flying.


Note: The above chart does not include hijackings.


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