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[MIAMI BEACH] Traveling by plane is safer than ever despite a series of headline-grabbing airline disasters in recent months, the head of a major global aviation group said Monday.
"With one jet hull loss for every 4.4 million flights last year, flying has never been safer," said Tony Tyler, International Air Transport Association (Iata) director general, told the group's 71st annual meeting.
"In contrast, paradoxically so, aviation safety has been a constant in recent headlines," added Mr Tyler, describing the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 in March 2014, the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight 17 over war-torn Ukraine in July last year and the deliberate crash by a co-pilot of a Germanwings flight into the French Alps in March as "extraordinary events." "Every loss is a tragedy," Mr Tyler told the opening session of the meeting, which drew more than 1,000 industry leaders from around the world to south Florida.
"The greatest tribute we can pay to them is to make flying ever safer. That is precisely what we are doing." He said improved tracking standards are being developed to report on an airline's whereabout every 15 minutes.
"In the near future, emerging technology and proposed new practices will move us closer to ensuring that never again will an aircraft simply disappear." He described the loss of flight MH17 - which killed 298 people when it was shot down over Ukraine last year - as "an outrage," adding that civilian aircraft "must never be targets for weapons of war." He said the global governments are working to better share security information through the International Civil Aviation Organization, and called for a global convention to "control the design, manufacture, sale and deployment of weapons with anti-aircraft capability." Kiev and Western governments say the plane was shot down by separatists using a surface-to-air missile supplied by Moscow. Russia has denied involvement and placed the blame on Kiev.
The loss of Germanwings flight 9525, which crashed into the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board in an apparently suicidal act by a mentally ill copilot, was a "deliberate and horrible act by one of our own," Mr Tyler said.
"There is no immunity to mental health issues," he said, adding that the investigation should help "airlines and regulators look again at the balance needed to monitor mental health." Mr Tyler said that the global airline industry as a whole is poised to earn US$29.3 billion in profits in 2015, as more airlines fly with their planes filled to capacity and the cost of fuel drops.