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This picture taken on May 16, 2014 shows an MD-83 aircraft of Spanish company Swiftair landing at Zaventem Airport in Brussels. A similar Air Algerie plane with more than 110 people on board crashed July 24, 2014 during a flight from Burkina Faso to Algiers. / KEVIN CLEYNHENS AFP/Getty Images

Commercial flight is still nearly the safest it has ever been, despite the latest spate of crashes including an Air Algérie flight on Thursday, according to aviation sources.

The 81 commercial accidents worldwide last year was up from 75 in 2012, which was the safest year on record, but still below the five-year average of 86 per year, according to the International Air Transport Association, a trade group for airlines around the world.

Sixteen accidents last year were fatal, one more than the year before, but also below the five-year average of 19, according to the airlines group.

Tony Tyler, CEO of the airline group, voiced regret Thursday that commercial aviation fatalities this year have already eclipsed the 210 last year. But there about 100,000 flights every day without incident, and the industry will leave nothing unturned to understand the cause of every accident, he said.

"With three tragedies in such quick succession, many people will, understandably, be asking questions about aviation safety," Tyler said. "Our number one priority is safety. And despite the events of the past seven days, flying is safe."

The last fatal crash of an Air Algérie passenger plane was in 2003, which killed 102 people aboard, according to a summary by the Aviation Safety Network, a group that tracks accidents worldwide. The 737 suffered an engine failure soon after taking off from Tamanrasset bound for Algiers, and the pilot had failed to retract landing gear as the plane lost power, according to the summary.

Initial reports about the Air Algérie flight, which was being operated by Spanish contractor Swiftair, is that it likely crashed in stormy weather. The accident following a TransAsia crash in a typhoon on Taiwan on Wednesday and a Malaysia Airlines plane that was shot down July 17 over eastern Ukraine.

While there is a tendency to link accidents, U.S. airline Capt. Patrick Smith said each of the recent incidents seems to stem from a different cause and that airline travel remains safe.

"It's not indicative of some menacing trend," said Smith, who writes the blog askthepilot.com and authored the book Cockpit Confidential. "I think you're just seeing a spate of unfortunate luck."

The Federal Aviation Administration has a warning to U.S. airlines against flying over Mali at less than 24,000 feet because of rebels using small arms, rockets, mortars and shoulder-fired anti-aircraft weapons."

Smith, who flies routinely over Mali and vacationed there, said U.S. airlines don't go to Mali destinations, in contrast to a variety of European carriers. U.S. airlines flying to Africa are flying to Sub-Saharan countries, he said.

"It's so early after an accident in a remote part of the world that about the worst thing we could do is try to nail down a cause," Smith said. "It's just too soon."



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Aviation industry maintains safety, despite Mali crash

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