Air travel safety is definitely a data-driven activity. Although the number of aircraft in operation is constantly on the rise, accident rates are falling, making air transport the safest of all means of transportation.
Improvements bear fruit, and the usefulness of aircraft monitoring and redundancies can be witnessed everyday.
The increase in flight length also contributes to explain the drop in the number of plane crashes. Since accidents mainly occur during the take-off and landing phases, a long-haul aircraft performing only one or two long cycles a day is indeed less likely to be involved in an accident than a short-range aircraft performing in the region of ten short cycles a day.
Finally, the introduction of regulations and of checks by authorities and the growing experience of aircraft manufacturers all contribute to the safety of air transport.
However, what with a growing number of aircraft now operating, even though the rate of accidents per flight may drop slightly, the actual number of accidents will increase. Since aircraft carry an ever increasing number of people, the number of onboard fatalities will per force rise too.