Last year was the safest in history to fly commercially, IATA reported, although some developing regions lag the low accident rates achieved in North America, Europe and Asia/Pacific.

As measured in hull losses per million flights of Western-built jets, the global accident rate in 2011 was 0.37, or one accident for every 2.7 million flights, IATA said Tuesday. That was 39% improved over an accident rate of 0.61 in 2010 (one accident for every 1.6 million flights) (ATW Daily News, Feb. 24, 2011).

IATA DG and CEO Tony Tyler said, "Flying is one of the safest things that a person could do. But every accident is one too many, and each fatality is a human tragedy. The ultimate goal of zero accidents keeps everyone involved in aviation focused on building an ever safer industry."

There were 11 hull loss accidents involving Western-built jets in 2011 compared to 17 in 2010, IATA said. There were 92 total accidents for all aircraft types (Eastern and Western built), down slightly from 94 in 2010. There were five fatal hull loss accidents involving Western-built jets last year, down from eight in 2010. The fatality rate dropped to 0.07 per million passengers from 0.21 in 2010 for Western-built jet operations.

The regional figures reported by IATA offer a stark contrast. In terms of Western-built jet hull loss rates, Asia-Pacific (0.25), Europe (0.0), North America (0.10) and North Asia (0.0) performed better than the global average of 0.37. But Russia/CIS (1.06), Latin America/Caribbean (1.28), Middle East/North Africa (2.02) and Africa (3.27) all fared worse than the global average.

The organization pointed out that African carriers participating in its IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) program had a zero hull loss rate in 2011. "The problems of Africa are complex and include both insufficient government oversight and a lack of infrastructure investment," Tyler said. "It is quite clear from the industry's performance that global standards like IOSA are an effective means to improve safety."

IATA noted that a similar trend could be seen in Russia/CIS, where the 2011 accident rate for IOSA-registered airlines was more than five times better than the rate for non-IOSA airlines.

Runway excursions were the most common type of accident in 2011, comprising 18% of total accidents globally, IATA said.