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31 December 2008's Airline Safety Review for 2008

The year 2008 had the fewest fatal airline crashes in any year since began it's annual review of airline safety events in 1996. This 13th annual review discusses seven fatal airline events, and fifteen other significant events from 2008.

As looks back at the fatal and significant aviation safety events of last year, the most noticeable fact about this 13th annual review is that 2008 had fewer fatal airline events than any of the previous 12 years reviewed by The most was 19 fatal events in 1997, and the previous low was eight fatal events in 2003, 2006, and 2007. counts as a fatal event any airline flight where one or more passengers are killed, including those events involving hijacking, sabotage, and military action. This review counts only those events that occur on aircraft that can carry at least 10 passengers, and that are commonly used in regular airline service in North America, Western Europe, Australia, and Japan. Significant events are those events that were noteworthy for other reasons. Several of these 15 significant events were non-fatal events involving large jet airliners, but others included crashes involving celebrities, military aircraft, and smaller airline aircraft.

One of the more interesting observations from the 2008 review is that it represents the second consecutive year with no fatal airline events involving the US or Canada. That includes any US or Canadian airliner operating anywhere in the world, or any other airliner operating to or from the US or Canada. The last such event was the crash of a US airliner in Kentucky in August 2006. Since the introduction of jet airliner service to North America in 1958, there had been no previous two year period with zero airliner passenger fatalities.

To put this in a global context, Canada and the US account for about 60% of all airline traffic involving larger aircraft. In other words, 40% of these kinds of airline flights were responsible for 100% of the fatal passenger events. In 2008, the seven fatal events included one airliner from Europe, two each from Africa and Latin America, and two from countries of the former Soviet Union.

The fifteen other events in's review were included either because of the amount of media attention they attracted, or because of the safety and security issues associated with the event. Among these 15 significant events were seven non-fatal jet airliner events. The most recent was a December 20 takeoff accident involving a Continental Airlines 737 in Denver. Although the plane experienced significant structural damage and a post-crash fire, all passengers and crew members successfully evacuated the aircraft.

The other significant airliner events included the first ever crash of a 777, two in-flight events involving Qantas, another two involving Air Canada, and a takeoff accident involving Iran Air.

The other eight significant events included an F/A-18 crash in San Diego, four fatal crashes involving small airliners, and three crashes involving celebrities. Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the head of the Unification Church, survived a helicopter crash in South Korea; Travis Barker, former drummer for the music group Blink-182, was one of two survivors of a crash of a chartered jet in South Carolina, and President-Elect Barack Obama was on board a plane that had a collision with a parked aircraft on the ground in Chicago.

For more information on all of these 2008 events, including links to incident reports, investigation updates, plane crash videos, and podcasts, please visit There you will also find links to additional information such as what you can bring on board, lists of banned items, instructions on how to successfully complain about your air travel experience, and fear of flying advice.

Listen to the Annual Review for 2008

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