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Commercial aviation accidents statistics

Aircraft accident statistics can prove a valuable source of information that allows for the setting of priorities and the monitoring of progress made by the aeronautic industry. They are being calculated for many kinds of aircraft. The statistics presented in this section include worldwide commercial jet planes with a maximum gross weight of over 60,000 pounds . Airplanes manufactured in the former Soviet Union (CIS) are not included.

1. Growth in air traffic

Air traffic increased exponentially between the beginnings of aviation and 2001. After the attack on the World Trade Center, however, many airlines came into financial difficulties and air traffic started to drop. Two years down the line, traffic picked up again.

Air traffic growth
Air traffic growth

In 2013, airplanes clocked a record 54.9 million flight hours. It is important to keep this number in mind when interpreting statistics and failure rates: it means that, although an event may have only a 1 in a million probability of happening, it will, statistically, occur several times a year.

The following graph shows the total number of certified commercial jet airplanes with a maximum gross weight of over 60,000 pounds. It does not include airplanes manufactured in the former Soviet Union.

Number or aircraft in operation
Evolution of the number or aircraft in operation

The number or aircraft in operation keeps increasing, in a bid to meet growing transport demand. Fortunately, despite congested airspaces, collision risk remains very low thanks to new technologies that provide accurate position and altitude measurements, a definite help to both crews and Air Traffic Controllers in preventing collisions. For example, in order to accommodate all traffic over some oceans, specific airspaces where aircraft are separated vertically by only 1000 ft were created. These are called 'RVSM' (Reduced Vertical Separation Minima) airspaces.

Average flight time increase
Average flight time increase

The graph above shows that the average flight time also increases with time. Some state-of-the-art aircraft can perform 22-hour non-stop flights and fly halfway round the world without landing. These very long-haul aircraft are becoming ever more common.