2014 plane crash fatalities already double those of 2013
Published Thursday, July 24, 2014 1:16PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, July 24, 2014 5:22PM EDT
Three passenger plane crashes in the last week may have caused nearly the same number of fatalities over a seven-day period as all aviation fatalities in 2013, according to an international aircraft accidents body.
The Geneva-based Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives (B3A) reports that 2013 saw 459 fatalities as a result of aircraft accidents.
Meanwhile, just more than halfway through this year, the organization is reporting 991 fatalities in 2014.
Last week Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down by a missile over Ukraine, killing all 298 people onboard. On Wednesday, TransAsia Airways Flight GE 222 crashed while landing at Magong Airport in Taiwan during a storm, leaving 48 dead and injuring 10 others.
Then on Thursday, an Air Algerie plane vanished off the radar over northern Mali with 116 people aboard. The airline said it's likely the plane went down on the outskirts of Mali's Gao region.
While the string of crashes may have some second-guessing their upcoming travel plans, aviation experts say the recent tragedies are purely coincidental.
"There's a very high level of aviation safety today," B3A founder and aircraft accident historian Ronan Hubert told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview from Geneva.
Hubert said the aviation accident rate has been declining over the last 20 years.
He added that the death rate as a result of plane crashes was so low between 2011 and 2013 that it's "very, very difficult to do better."
"With all the passengers and aircrafts and flights we have taking off every day, the risk is near-zero," he said.
The number of fatalities from aircraft accidents in 2011 was 828, according to B3A. That number dropped to 800 in 2012 and 459 in 2013.
Hubert said most plane crashes involve small planes, and tragedies such as the Malaysia Airlines crash remain extremely rare.
"This why you see the rate of casualties is very, very low, and suddenly in one week we have more than 450," he said.
Black boxes to provide answers behind crashes
Aircraft accident investigator John Cox agreed that the series of recent plane crashes is very rare.
"We have three, very independent accidents occur in unique circumstances, all within a short period of time," Cox told CTV News Channel on Thursday. "And that's unusual."
He said in the cases of the Air Algerie and TransAsia crashes, the black boxes will give a clear idea of what happened. Both flights are thought to have flown through bad weather before crashing.
However, Cox said the MH17 black boxes may offer little insight into the tragedy.
"They're only going to tell us what happened to the airplane after the vessel strike," he said, adding that it's highly unlikely that the plane's pilots had any idea that the aircraft was targeted.
The map below shows the deadliest crashes of all time (green), the deadliest crashes of 2014 (red) and the deadliest crashes of 2013 (blue).
Zoom in and click on each marker for details of the crash.