I was watching The National last night and one of the stories was about air safety. With the July 24 crash of Air Algerie Flight AH5017, the July 17 crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, and the March 8 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, it’s been a bad year for air safety. The story really got my attention when the reporter, Peter Armstrong, said that 2013 had the lowest number of air passenger fatalities ever. Ever! 

Even if you ignore all the years before commercial air travel, what about the early years of passenger service in which the number of fliers were so few as compared to today? He specified no start date, so were there fewer fatalities last year than in 1919 when Aircraft Transport and Travel started flying military biplanes modified to carry two passengers each between London and Paris?

It could be that last year was the safest year on record in terms of the number of fatal commercial airline crashes per people/miles flown. Wikipedia claims that the worst year by that reckoning was 1929. During that year there were 51 fatal commercial airline crashes killing a total of 61 people. Figuring in the distance, it works out to one fatal crash for every 1,000,000 miles flown. With today’s volume of air travel, an equivalent rate would mean 7,000 crashes annually! And do note that the 61 fatalities from 1929 is fewer than the 210 fatalities from 2013.

Maybe this is what Armstrong meant, but it is certainly not what he said. Come on CBC, you’re better than this.

I sent a query to the show about this. If I hear back, so will you.