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2014 had the fewest flight crashes in decades

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Given the number of major flight crashes and disappearances this year, it might seem like flight safety has taken a bad turn. But it turns out that 2014 hasn't actually been a statistically worse year than many of those in the recent past. As pointed out by The Wall Street Journal, the Aviation Safety Network currently measures both the accident and fatality rate of 2014 flights as falling beneath the 10-year average — making this year an improvement in some areas.

There have been fewer accidents but more deaths

Notably, those figures don't include Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, because it was shot down, or the disappearance of a 162-person AirAsia flight this weekend, which is still being investigated. They also disregard planes that can carry fewer than 14 people. But even so, the network measures only 19 accidents for 2014, which is far below the 10-year annual average of 32 accidents. The accident count is actually even lower than it was last year (29), continuing the trend of accident rates dropping to the lowest levels they've been at in decades.

Despite accident rates dropping, deaths from these accidents are rising this year. In 2013, there were 265 deaths from flight accidents — this year they are currently measured to at 526, and that may rise above the 10-year average of 676 deaths. However, the Journal notes that it's far lower than the 1,074 deaths seen in 2005. That means that even in spite of the high-profile issues this year, flight safety is still showing improvements in some areas.