2006 Had Fewest Air Crashes In 43 Years

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The number of air crashes around the world in 2006 was the lowest in 43 years, making it one of the safest in aviation history, an independent watchdog group said Tuesday.

Last year saw 156 crashes, compared with 178 in 2005, the Aircraft Crashes Record Office said in a statement.

The Geneva-based organization said 1,292 people died in plane crashes in 2006 — a drop of 11 percent on the previous year.

According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, air travel increased by 4 percent in 2006 to about 2.1 billion passengers.

Almost a third of all crashes last year occurred in North America, with 45 accidents in the United States alone, ACRO said.

The number of people killed in airline accidents in the United States rose from 75 in 2005 to 142 last year, according to a tally of incidents listed on the ACRO Web site.

The deadliest accident of 2006 was the downing of a Tupolev TU-154 in Ukraine in August, in which 170 people lost their lives.

While the largest number of fatalities usually occurs when a large, jet-powered plane crashes, three quarters of accidents last year involved smaller, propeller-powered planes.

Two European-made Airbus planes crashed in 2006, compared with five made by Seattle-based Boeing and 16 Ukrainian Antonov aircraft.

ACRO records all aviation accidents in which planes capable of carrying at least six passengers in addition to the crew are damaged beyond repair.