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Airline Industry Records Safest Year in 2004

The International Air Transport Association says 2004 was the safest year for air transport since World War II. The agency says the number of people killed and the number of planes destroyed in accidents last year reached a record low.

IATA Spokesman Anthony Concil says the safety record was achieved despite accumulated losses by airlines of $35 billion since 2001.

He says a person flying last year had one chance in 10 million of being killed in an accident, compared to nearly three in 2002 and more than seven in 1996. He says the figures are even more startling when compared to the safety record of commercial aviation at the end of World War II.

"We had 1.8 billion people travel safely in 2004, with 428 lives lost," said Anthony Concil. "In 1945, we had about nine million passengers and a similar number of people lost their lives. So, that is about a 200-percent increase in safety since that time."

The industry regards the end of World War II in 1945 as the start of large-scale commercial air traffic. Last year, IATA figures show a total of 203 aviation accidents. It notes just under eight planes were destroyed or damaged beyond repair, compared to nine in 2002 and 13 in 1996.

Mr. Concil says an accident is rarely the result of a single cause. Therefore, he says IATA takes a holistic approach to safety. He says everything from the management system to cargo and cabin safety is monitored.

He notes the biggest safety problems are found in Africa. He says there was a disproportionate number of accidents last year in Africa, when compared to the amount of traffic it has.

"We see a disproportionate number of cargo aircraft involved in accidents," he said. "Geographically, we are looking at Africa as needing a lot of assistance. So, we will be doing some targeted measures toward Africa. And, if you are looking at time of flight, probably approach and landing is going to get most of our attention in the coming year."

Specifically, Mr. Concil says Africa has problems of infrastructure that need to be addressed, as well as operational and training problems to be resolved.

He says the airline industry is aiming to reduce accidents by another 25-percent in 2006, with an ultimate goal of zero accidents. He adds statistics show that flying is the safest mode of transport.