In 2009, a total of 719 people worldwide lost their lives in accidents involving aircraft, which is a slightly lower number than the annual average of 830 deaths, according to preliminary figures compiled by the NLR-Air Transport Safety Institute (NLR-ATSI).
2009 was a good year regarding aviation safety, with 111 accidents involving commercial aircraft reported worldwide, of which 20 of these accidents had fatal consequences for passengers. Over the past ten years there has been an average of 135 accidents per year, of which 28 resulted in fatalities. The aforementioned figures pertain to commercial aircraft that weigh more than 5.7 tons.
When the previous three years are compared, the likelihood of a fatal crash occurring in 2009 was equal to that in previous years (circa 1 fatal crash per 1.7 million flights).
Although aviation safety has gradually improved over the past decade, a discernable stagnation in the improvement of aviation safety over the past few years has been noted, and this was also apparent in 2009.
In 2009, the largest aviation disaster was that of the Air France plane that – for unknown reasons – crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 228 people onboard. The United States, the world’s leading aviation nation, was also stunned by a major crash involving a propeller-driven airplane, in which 49 people lost their lives. This aircraft crashed just prior to landing, and one person on the ground also died as a result.
In 2009, cargo planes were once again involved in numerous accidents. Of the 20 fatal accidents worldwide, nine of these involved cargo planes. The odds that a cargo plane would crash were more than 10 times greater than for a passenger plane.
When viewed over the long term, approximately one in every seven aircraft accidents were incidents in which an aircraft overshot the runway during take-off or landing. This type of crash has become increasingly common in recent years: in 2009 nearly one in five accidents was of this type. Recently (22 December 2009) an American Airlines Boeing 737-800 overshot the runway during a landing at an airport in Kingston, Jamaica, injuring 44 people onboard and seriously damaging the aircraft. Theses types of accidents were also relatively numerous in 2008.