The number of people killed in plane crashes rose sharply in 2018, according to new figures.

There were 556 fatalities as a result of 15 accidents over the course of the year, compared with 44 deaths in 10 accidents during 2017.

While 2017 was the safest year in aviation history, the Netherlands-based Aviation Safety Network (ASN) says 2018 was worse than the five-year average of 14 accidents and 480 fatalities.

Twelve of 2018’s fatal accidents involved passenger planes, while three related to cargo flights.

The year’s deadliest crash came in October, when a Lion Air flight crashed in Indonesia – killing 189 people.

A preliminary report suggested that technical problems had caused the Boeing 737 Max plane to crash into the Java Sea shortly after take-off from Jakarta.

Overall, ASN says aviation safety has improved substantially over the past 20 years – despite increasing demand for global flights.

Harro Ranter, its chief executive, said: “If the accident rate had remained the same as 10 years ago, there would have been 39 fatal accidents last year.

“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.”

ASN described loss of control accidents as a major safety concern for the aviation industry, as they accounted for at least 10 of the 25 worst crashes over the past five years.

Most of those crashes have been described as “not survivable”.

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