Airliner accidents killed 556 people last year compared with 44 in 2017, according to Aviation Safety Network.

The Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) members and the Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management (BNPB) members check ruins of the crashed Lion Air flight JT610 during their investigation at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta
Credit: Bagus Indahono/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutt/Shutterstock

In 2018, the airline industry saw a sharp rise in fatalities caused by plane crashes, making it one of the top 10 deadliest years on record. According to Aviation Safety Network (ASN), airliner accidents killed 556 people last year compared with 44 in 2017. As the BBC reported, the worst civilian accident occurred in October when a Lion Air plane crashed in Indonesia. That event killed 189.

That crash, The Telegraph reported, may have been caused by technical problems in the Boeing 737 Max plane. The problem may have begun with an update to a safety system that was designed to pull the plane out of a dangerous stall. Investigators believe the system may have been triggered on inaccurate data transmitted during the flight, causing the plane to nosedive into the water.

While the numbers can seem frightening, it’s important to note that flying is still abundantly safe and airlines are making major progress in making flying even safer.

"If the accident rate had remained the same as 10 years ago there would have been 39 fatal accidents last year," ASN CEO Harro Ranter told the BBC. "At the accident rate of the year 2000, there would have been even 64 fatal accidents. This shows the enormous progress in terms of safety in the past two decades."

The ASN did warn that the biggest threat is “loss-of-control” accidents, which still present a major safety concern. A loss-of-control accident, The Telegraph explained, is an unrecoverable deviation from an intended flight path. This can be caused by mechanical failure, human error, or environmental disturbance. This type of accident was responsible for at least 10 of the worst 25 accidents in the past five years.

Still, remember that you have only a 1 in 9,821 (or .01 percent) chance of dying in an air or space transport incident, making it the safest way to travel.