Germanwings crash defies world airline safety trends

2014 had the lowest accident rate in history

The crash of a Germanwings passenger plane in the French Alps on  Tuesday came as the world's airline safety record was improving, with 2014 reported as having the lowest accident rate in history.

The Germanwings A320, carrying 144 passengers and six crew members, crashed in a rugged area of the Alps while on a flight from Barcelona, Spain, to the German city of Duesseldorf, said French officials, who warned that no passengers were likely to survive.

The disappearance last year of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 focused the world's attention on airline safety but the International Air Transport Assn., reported a total of 73 airline accidents, including 12 fatal accidents, in 2014, down from 81 accidents, 16 of which were fatal, in 2013.

That's the equivalent of one accident per 4.4 million flights. The previous lowest accident rate was 2012 when it was one accident per 3.6 million flights.

Although the accident rate dropped to a record low, the number of fatalities rose significantly to 641 last year, compared with 210 fatalities in 2013, IATA reported. 

The A320, a short- to medium-range plane built by European manufacturer Airbus, is also considered a very safe jet, having the fifth-lowest rate of fatal accidents for an aircraft model with more than 2 million miles, according to Airsafe.com, an aviation safety site, launched by a former Boeing airline safety analyst.

Germanwings is a low-cost subsidiary of Lufthansa, the German national airline, which also has a good safety record. Until the Germanwings crash Tuesday, Lufthansa had only three fatal accidents since 1970, resulting in the deaths of 77 passengers and crew members, according to Airsafe. 

Airbus issued a statement, saying that nearly 6,200 A320 aircraft were in operation worldwide. To date, the entire fleet has accumulated some 150 million flight hours in over 85 million flights.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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