With more than 500 fatalities, 2018 was a setback for commercial aviation safety following the record safe performance of 2017.

The Netherlands-based Aviation Safety Network (ASN) reported 15 fatal accidents involving commercial passenger and cargo aircraft in 2018, resulting in 556 deaths. The previous year saw 10 fatal accidents resulting in 44 lives lost, the first time since 1946 that annual fatalities fell below 100, according to ASN records.

Though 2018 was relatively safe from a historical perspective, the fatal accident toll was worse than the five-year average of 14 accidents and 480 fatalities, ASN said Jan. 1. The independent organization counts accidents involving passenger and cargo flights of civil aircraft certified to carry 14 or more passengers.

Because it was a military flight, ASN did not include among its results the April 11 crash of an Algerian Air Force Il-76 shortly after takeoff from Boufarik Airport, Algeria, which killed all 257 people on board.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) reported 11 fatal accidents involving commercial airliners in 2018, resulting in 530 deaths and “setting us back to a level not experienced since 2015,” the agency said.

More than half of last year’s commercial aviation fatalities resulted from the Oct. 29 crash of a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 in the Java Sea, which killed 189 people, and the May 18 crash of a Global Air 737-201 in Cuba, which caused 112 deaths.

Other accidents with high death tolls included the crash of a Saratov Airlines Antonov An-148 near Dergayevo, Russia, shortly after takeoff Feb. 11, killing 71 people. An Aseman Airlines ATR 72 twin turboprop crashed into Iran’s Dena Mountains Feb. 18, resulting in 66 fatalities.

With the exception of a sightseeing flight on a vintage 1939-built Junkers Ju 52 that crashed in the Swiss Alps on Aug. 4, killing 20 people, EASA said “there were no fatal accidents in commercial airline operations from the EASA member states” in 2018. Although the Ju 52 was operating a commercial flight, the agency described it as “a unique event compared with traditional airline operations.”

ASN also included the Sept. 9 crash of a Let L-410 twin turboprop in South Sudan, which resulted in 20 fatalities, among its results.

On April 17, an inflight engine failure on a Dallas-based Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 caused the death of one passenger, the first fatality involving a US passenger airline since February 2009.

Reflecting on the causes of commercial aviation accidents over the last five years, EASA said “key risk areas” were aircraft upset, runway excursions and technical faults relating to aircraft pressurization or fire.

“The events in 2018 were a reminder that safety should not be taken for granted,” the agency said. EASA added that “we should never be complacent with safety” and said it would “remain persistent in [its] efforts devoted to protecting passengers and citizens.”

ASN noted that three of the 15 accident aircraft it counted were operated by airlines on the European Union’s Air Safety List of banned carriers, an increase of two over 2017.

Bill Carey, bill.carey@aviationweek.com

Kerry Reals, kerry@realsreporting.com