In spite of a pandemic, fatalities in plane crashes rose in 2020.

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Despite a 42 percent decline in flights worldwide, scores more died in major commercial aircraft crashes

Despite a dramatic decline in flights due to the coronavirus pandemic, the number of people killed in crashes involving large commercial airliners increased to 299 worldwide in 2020, a Dutch consultancy has found. There were 40 incidents involving large commercial passenger aircraft in 2020, five of which were fatal, resulting in 299 deaths.

There were almost twice as many accidents in 2019 – 86 – of which eight were fatal, resulting in 257 casualties, said aviation consultancy company To70. In 2020, large commercial aircraft had 0.27 fatal accidents per million flights, To70 said, or one fatal crash per 3.7 million flights – up from 0.18 fatal accidents per million flights in 2019. For the first time in 21 months, Boeing 737 Max returns to the U.S. skiesRead moreAirlines decreased the number of flights they conducted in 2020 as the pandemic took effect, with Flightradar24 announcing that it monitored worldwide commercial flights in 2020 dropped 42 percent to 24.4 million. More than half of all deaths in the To70 survey were the 176 individuals killed in January 2020 while a Ukrainian airliner was operating. The second deadliest occurrence was the May crash of a Pakistani airliner that killed 98 passengers. Nearly all airline travelers use large passenger planes protected by the statistics, but exempt small commuter planes in service. Aviation deaths have decreased significantly over the past two decades.

There were 1,015 deaths on commercial passenger flights worldwide as recently as 2005, the Aviation Safety Network (ASN) said. There have been an average of 14 fatal incidents for commercial passenger and freight aircraft in the past five years, resulting in 345 fatalities each year, ASN said. With only two fatal incidents involving regional turboprops, resulting in 13 fatalities, and no fatal passenger plane crashes, aviation worldwide had its safest year on record in 2017. Since February 2009, the United States has not had a fatal crash involving a U.S. passenger airline and only one fatality due to a U.S. passenger airline accident during that time.

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