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This year is on course to be the safest ever for commercial aviation, with roughly one passenger death for every 7.1 million air travelers worldwide, although aviation officials warn that improving accident statistics mask lingering dangers.
With only days left, 2011 appears set to eclipse the postwar record low rate of passenger fatalities, set in 2004 at one per 6.4 million passengers, according to Ascend, a consulting firm in London. This year also appears set to end with among the lowest total number of passenger deaths, at 401 to date, despite a sharp rise recently in the number of flights and passengers worldwide. In 2004, 344 passengers died in commercial aviation accidents, but the industry carried 30% fewer passengers on many fewer flights, according to Ascend. The figures exclude acts of terrorism.