The Geneva-based Aircraft Crashes Record Office says 2007 was one of the safest years in the past half century in which to fly. The group says 965 people died in 136 airplane crashes last year. The private group documents air disasters worldwide in accidents involving planes carrying more than six people. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.
The Aircraft Crashes Record Office says zero risk does not exist in the aviation industry, but 2007 came pretty close to that mark. It says the number of air traffic accidents last year was 28 less than in 2006 and the smallest number since 1963.
It also says there were 25 percent fewer fatalities last year than in 2006. The worst accident it finds was the crash of a TAM Brazil flight in Sao Paolo in July. That crash killed 199 people.
Historian in Aircraft Accidents and head of the Record Office, Ronan Hubert, tells VOA this and other aviation accidents are tragic, but they must be put in perspective. He says 965 people lost their lives in plane crashes last year, compared to more than one million who were killed in road accidents.
"In 2007, more than two billion were traveling worldwide and we have thousands and thousands of aircraft, airplanes flying every day worldwide, it means that airplanes, aviation is one of the safest transport modes in the world," said Hubert.
The United States recorded 34 plane accidents last year. This was the highest number, followed by Canada, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, and Indonesia. Hubert explains most air traffic in the world takes place in the United States, which is why most accidents occur there.
But, he says the U.S. aviation industry has a very good safety record, unlike Africa, which has the worst. He says dozens of airlines in seven African countries are blacklisted in Europe and in the United States.
"We know today that countries like Somalia, Sudan and DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo], they are totally unsafe," said Hubert. "But, we know why. Somalia is today a country of which you have a civil war for many years. Sudan, you have big problem of corruption. You have the Darfur problem. You have the civil war also and on the DRC there is plenty of corruption problems also."
Hubert makes a distinction between fly-by-night operators in several African countries and reputable national carriers in most African countries. He says national carriers in Kenya, South Africa, Sudan, the North African countries and others are reliable and safe.
He says international flights to and from Africa are not the problem, most of the plane crashes and deaths take place during internal flights in Africa by small, dangerous carriers.