2011, the safest year for air transport

The global rate for air crashes has reached its lowest rate ever. The decrease in the number of accidents (-2%), deaths (-38%), and most importantly the absence of major crashes are behind this improved safety for air transportation.
© Lasse Fuss, CC BY-SA 3.0

IATA, the International Air Transport Association, which represents 240 airliners, providing 84% of global air transportation, lists one crash with a hull loss per 2.7 million flights for Western-built jets, a record well above the 2010 report posting 1 accident for 1.6 million flights.

Air transport is in 2011:

  • 2.8 billion passengers
  • 38 million flights on board more than 27 271 aircrafts
  • 33 million staff
  • 92 accidents, 22 of which deadly
  • 486 deaths

The global accident rate has, therefore, been 0.37 event per million flights for Western-built jets, which means an improvement of nearly 40% compared to 2010.

The total hull losses of Western-built jets have also reported a significant decrease: from 17 accidents in 2010 down to 11 in 2011.

In total, 92 accidents, involving all kinds of airplanes, have been reported in 2011 against 94 in 2010.

Moreover, out of the 2.8 billion passengers who have traveled worldwide in 2011 on board 38 million flights, IATA listed 486 deaths following 22 deadly crashes, compared to 786 deaths for 23 deadly crashes in 2010, that is, a 38% decline of deaths. The global mortality rate for Western-built jets has dwindled down to 0.07 per million passengers versus 0.21 in 2010.

Air crashes rates per region*
Pacific Asia and North Asia
North America
World average
Commonwealth of Independent States (Ex USSR)
Latin America and Caribbean
* Rates are based on the number of Western-built jet hull losses per million flights ** Middle East and North Africa

Regional disparities

Indeed, air safety has considerably improved worldwide, yet some disparities remains at the regional level. Europe, North America, Asia-Pacific and North Asia are unquestionably the safest areas exhibiting a performance above the global average. However, loss ratio has worsened in the Middle East and North Africa rising from 0.72 in 2010 to 2.02 in 2011. For Africa, former USSR countries, Latin America and the Caribbean, these rates have improved substantially but remain above the global average.

Despite a 56% decrease of the accidents rate in Africa (from 7.41 in 2010 to 3.27 in 2011), the continent is listed among the least safe areas. The lack of air safety in Africa is accounted for by:

  • a fleet made up mainly of old aircrafts,
  • insufficient government oversight,
  • human errors and inexperienced young pilots,
  • very poor landing and take-off runway excursions and infrastructure.
Breakdown of accidents per region
Commonwealth of Independent States (Ex USSR)
Latin America and Caribbean
Middle East and North Africa
North America
North Asia

The nature of the 2011 air crashes

The two most recurrent accidents reported in 2011 pertain to runaway excursions during take-off and landing operations and ground damage. The first kind, accounts for 18% of the total number of accidents, a rate slightly lower than that of 2010 (21%) whereas the second one, accounts for 16% of the accidents, a rate higher than the 11% reported in 2010. Damage to the ground includes damage caused during provision of ground services and the collisions during ground traffic.

The deadliest accidents in 2011
CountryCompanyAircraft typeVictims
9 January
IranIran AirBoeing 72777
21 March
Democratic Republic of CongoTrans Air CongoAntonov An-1223
4 April
Democratic Republic of CongoGeorgian AirwaysBombardier CJR 10032
20 June
RussiaRusAirTupolev Tu-13447
8 July
Democratic Republic of CongoHewa Bora AirwaysBoeing 72774
7 September
RussiaYak ServiceYak 4244
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