Have There Been More Plane Crashes This Year? Statistics Tell Us That, No, It Just Feels That Way

With the disappearance of Flight MH370 last March, three plane crashes in one week in July — including the shot-down Flight MH17 — and various other crashes making headlines, it feels like the past year has seen more commercial plane crashes than ever. The crashing of Germanwings Flight 4U9525 in the French Alps on Tuesday only adds to our collective wariness of flying. That said, if you look at overall statistics for plane crashes throughout the decades, you'll be reassured to know that 2014 was actually a pretty safe year for flying, and though we've seen two commercial crashes in 2015 so far, hopefully this year will be even safer.

On Tuesday, the French civil aviation authority confirmed that Germanwings Flight 4U9525, which was en route to Dusseldorf from Barcelona, had crashed over the French Alps. Germanwings, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, also confirmed the crash. The aircraft, an Airbus A320, was carrying 144 passengers and six crew members. Authorities have not identified the passengers yet, but they do not believe there are any survivors at this time.

In a statement, French President François Hollande said:

The conditions of the accident, which have not yet been clarified, suggest that there might not be any survivors.

This is the second commercial airplane crash this year, after TransAsia Airways Flight 235 crashed in Taiwan on February 4. As the flight left Taipei bound for the Taiwanese island of Kinmen, the pilots reported an engine flameout shortly after takeoff. Of the 53 passengers and five crew members on board, 15 people survived.

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Common consensus will likely tell you that 2014 was not a good year for flying, especially on Malaysia Airlines. Since vanishing on March 8, 2014, Flight MH370 has become one of the most perplexing mysteries in recent history, as no hint of the plane has been found to this day, despite exhaustive searches. The 227 passengers and 12 crew members are all presumed dead.

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Then, just four months later, Flight MH17 was shot down by pro-Russian separatists near the Ukrainian-Russian border. None of the 283 passengers and 15 crew members survived. That same week, another TransAsia Airways flight went down, killing 48 people in Taiwan, and Air Algerie Flight 5017 crashed in Mali, killing all 116 people on board.

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The mystifying nature of Flight MH370, the violence behind MH17, and the timing of the other two flights have all contributed to major headlines and a frenzied public discourse about the safety of flying. However, the extreme circumstances of these tragic incidents does not mean that there were more crashes in 2014 than ever before, even if it feels that way. In the last 70 years, there were numerous years that saw far greater crashes and deaths. Take a look at these statistics from the Aviation Safety Network — you'll feel reassured about the state of flight safety today (and glad that you didn't fly that much in 1972).

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Aviation Deaths Per Year (Flights Carrying More Than 14 Passengers)

  • 2014: 854 deaths caused by 21 incidents
  • 2010: 943 deaths caused by 32 incidents
  • 2005: 1074 deaths caused by 40 incidents
  • 2002: 1112 deaths caused by 43 incidents
  • 1996: 1845 deaths caused by 57 incidents
  • 1985: 2010 deaths caused by 42 incidents
  • 1979: 1768 deaths caused by 74 incidents
  • 1972: 2373 deaths caused by 72 incidents
  • 1948: 1182 deaths caused by 87 incidents

Images: Wikipedia Commons, Getty Images (4)