Assuming a safe New Year’s Eve, Monday ends what can best be described as an average year for airline-related fatalities. According to one measure (fatalities involving airliners in flight, not necessarily in revenue service) there were 16 accidents that killed 555 people (as of Dec. 27) in 2018. That compares to the safest year on record in 2017 when there were only 59 deaths. Aviation Safety Net opined that the tenfold increase “is not acceptable. The airlines, regulators and crew must work together to ensure this troubling trend does not continue,” the publication said in its annual review. For perspective, there were 45 million airline flights in 2018 carrying 4.5 billion passengers.
The most serious crash was the loss of a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX in Indonesia in October, which killed all 189 on board. The cause hasn’t been determined but the investigation is focused on sensors related to an automatic system designed to prevent the aircraft from being inadvertently stalled. The crash of a Cubana Boeing 737-200 in Havana in May killed 112 of 113 people on board. The only U.S. passenger fatality was a woman who was partly sucked out of the window of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 that experienced an uncontained engine failure over Pennsylvania in April. Aviation Safety Net counted the death of a suicidal Horizon Air ramp attendant who stole a company Q400 and intentionally crashed it near Seattle in August.