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Experts believe the sudden drop in accidents is more of an anomaly than a trend, especially in the developing world where nearly half of the accidents in 2012 occurred despite only flying a fraction of total flights.
Air travel is now the safest it has been since the dawn of jet planes, with the global airline industry set to mark its lowest rate of fatal accidents since the early 1960s.
There have been 22 fatal crashes world-wide this year, a number that includes all passenger and cargo flights, down from 28 crashes in 2011, according to data assembled by the Aviation Safety Network, which compiles accident and incident information online. That crash count is down from a 10-year average of 34 fatal accidents per year.
Airline safety has improved steadily over the years, and accident rates in the U.S. and elsewhere began dropping with the advent of voluntary incident-reporting programs that encourage pilots and mechanics to pass on information about mistakes without fear of retribution.