Despite uptick of airline deaths, 2014 was one of the safest years for flying

The loss of AirAsia flight QZ8501 closes a year that has seen a barrage of news reports and images of airplane wreckage and grieving families. That magnified media coverage underscores the tragic fact that 2014 was the deadliest year for aviation fatalities in a decade, according to figures compiled by the Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives.

According to the BAAA, 1,326 people died this year in airliner accidents, the worst on record since 2005. That figure includes both Malaysia Airlines disasters — Flight MH370, which disappeared off the Vietnamese coastline and Flight MH17, which was shot down over Ukraine.

Graphic by Laura Santhanam/PBS NewsHour

Graphic by Laura Santhanam/PBS NewsHour

However, the major airline accidents this year accounted for 60 percent of the fatalities, The New York Times reported, and masks what is also a decreasing rate for accidents.

The loss of life in 2014 may have eclipsed 2013’s deaths — one of safest years on record, with 459 deaths — but it doesn’t compare to numbers from other decades.

For comparison, the worst year on record is 1972, with 3,346 fatalities from 332 airline crashes, according to the BAAA. 2014 had 112 crashes, a number that hasn’t been that low since 1927, when there was 110 crashes.

This means, despite the uptick of fatalities seen this year, 2014 continued the downward trend for airline disasters, pointing toward an improving aviation safety record.