Despite the number of catastrophic aviation crashes in the news, 2014 has been the safest year in the history of aviation measured by the number of accidents per total number of flights, said the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
With an overall 641 fatalities and 12 fatal accidents, 2014 saw a record number of flights. As a result the ‘hull loss per one million flights’ ratio, used by IATA to assess flight safety, has dropped in 2014 to 0.23 compared to 0.41 in 2013. That means that only one in about 4.4 million flights ended in a crash that caused irreparable damage to the plane. The average value of the accident rate for the period between 2009 and 2013 was 0.58 per million flights.
"While aviation safety was in the headlines in 2014, the data show that flying continues to improve its safety performance," said Tony Tyler, IATA's director general and chief executive officer, in a statement.
IATA's 2014 statistics, however, did not include the loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which was shot down by a surface-to-air anti-aircraft missile in Ukraine last June and so not classified as an accident despite all 298 people on board being killed.
"To the flying public an air tragedy is an air tragedy, regardless of how it is classified," said Tyler. "In 2014 we saw a reduction in the number of fatal accidents - and that would be true even if we were to include MH17 in the total."
Among the 2014 crashes, the loss of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 stands out as probably one of the biggest aviation mysteries.
One year after the plane, a Beoing 777-200ER, for reasons unknown diverted from its original course from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, its resting place as well as the cause of the diversion remain unexplained.
On Sunday, which marked the first anniversary of the plane’s disappearance, Malaysia published an interim report into the incident. The 584-page document revealed that batteries of the flight data recorder aboard theaircraft were expired.
Malaysia Airlines, however, dismissed concerns the battery may have affected the search for the wreckage.
The report concluded that nothing suspicious in the financial, medical or personal histories of pilots or crew has been found, addressing concerns the plane may have been hijacked by a crew member.
Produced by an international investigation team including experts from the USA, the UK, China, France and Australia, the report described final radar spottings of the aircraft.
The plane was virtually seen making a u-turn above the South China Sea by Malaysian civil and military radars.
Subsequently, the aircraft, with its transponders already off, was detected by Bangkok’s air traffic control radar but the controllers reportedly "did not pay much attention" to is as it did not fall under Thailand's jurisdiction.
The Indonesian air traffic control radar in Medan, in the northern tip of Sumatra island, did not pick up MH370 "for unknown reasons".
The aircraft's transponder, which was switched off just before the aircraft made the turn-back, was "operating satisfactorily" until it was lost on the ATC screen, according to the report.
The search for the missing jetliner along a rugged 60,000 square kilometer patch of sea floor some 1,600 km west of the Australian city of Perth has found nothing so far. The search in this area, which experts believe is the plane's most likely resting place, will likely be finished by May.
"The disappearance of MH370 is without precedent, and so too is the search - by far the most complex and technically challenging in aviation history," Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a statement.
"Together with our international partners, we have followed the little evidence that exists. Malaysia remains committed to the search, and hopeful that MH370 will be found," he said.
However, Australia’s deputy prime minister said recently the search could not go on forever and may be called off soon. Australia has so far led the search efforts.
Malaysia declared the disappearance of the flight an accident in January, clearing the way for the airline to pay compensation to victims' relatives.
Aviation safety record, 2014