Cuba air crash
© Reuters/Alexandre Meneghini
Remains of the Boeing-737 that crashed in Cuba in May.
While total flights increased by about 1 million, last year saw 556 aviation related deaths compared to only 44 the year before.

Airline safety took a plunge last year, particularly compared to 2017's numbers, according to statistics published by the Aviation Safety Network. While 2018 saw only five more fatal accidents than 2017, the 15 crashes included six large passenger planes which dramatically increased the total number of dead.

Despite how bad the numbers look at first glance, 2018 was actually a relatively safe year for air travel by several metrics. With the ASN estimating 37.8 million flights globally in 2018, the number of crashes is relatively low (around 1 in 2,520,000), particularly if we compare beyond the last five years which have all seen very low numbers. In 2014, for instance, there were 21 crashes resulting in 990 deaths, and the numbers were mostly higher going back through the years.

Aviation Safety Network CEO Harro Ranter commented on this fact saying "if the accident rate had remained the same as ten years ago, there would have been 39 fatal accidents last year. At the accident rate of 2000, there would have been 64 fatal accidents."

While better technology and increased safety measures might help explain the general downward trend, experts are still puzzled about the sharp difference between the last two years.

While we know that the majority of accidents occurred as a result of loss of control, there is no solid evidence to help account for the discrepancy itself.

The deadliest crash of the year was Lion Air Flight 610 which went down in Indonesia, leaving 189 people dead. The crash was attributed to faulty sensor readings.