Susan Strongman

Broadcasting reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Air death toll hits 719 - but experts say flying is safe

Rescue workers survey the wreckage of TransAsia Airways Flight GE222. Photo / AP
Rescue workers survey the wreckage of TransAsia Airways Flight GE222. Photo / AP

This year is the deadliest for air disasters since 2010, but Kiwi aviation experts say passengers are still statistically unlikely to die in an aircraft crash.

The commercial flight death toll for 2014 stands at 719 - following two Malaysia Airlines crashes, a turboprop plane crash last week in Taiwan, a commuter crash in Nepal in February and the Air Algerie crash on Thursday.

The global average over the past five years was 517 deaths and last year, one accident involving the loss of an aircraft occurred for every 2.4 million flights, the Wall Street Journal reported - an improvement from one in every 1.3 million flights in 2009.

A week after 298 people died on flight MH17 when it was shot down over Ukraine, the Air Algerie plane came down in a rainstorm in Mali killing 116 passengers and crew, just one day after TransAsia Airways GE222 crashed in Taiwan, killing 48 people.

The other commercial plane tragedies this year were Malaysia Airlines MH370, which went missing in March with 239 people on board and the death of 18 people aboard Nepal Airlines RA-183 in February.

This week hundreds of Kiwis ditched their Malaysia Airlines flights, choosing instead to opt for a full refund, or to change their travel dates.

But Auckland psychologist Grant Amos, who runs the Flying Without Fear programme, said people were more likely to be killed in a car accident than a plane crash. "The only thing you're less likely to do is to die by lightning strike," he said.

Aviation Week's Tauranga-based senior air transaction editor Adrian Schofield said air travel was becoming safer "but flying is a bit different in people's minds - no one gets freaked out by road statistics enough to not get in a car".

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 20 Dec 2014 09:28:24 Processing Time: 550ms