The International Air Transport Association, the governing body for the global aviation industry, has declared 2009 the second safest year ever on record following the release of new statistics.

In 2009, the worldwide accident rate equated to one mishap per 1.4 million flights. The accident rate uses hull losses for western manufactured aircraft in terms of per million ratios, resulting in an overall rating of 0.71. This represents a major improvement from the accident rate recorded in 2008 which scored a far higher 0.81.

Giovanni Bisignani, director general for the International Air Transport Association, said that the results were testament to the commitment of IATA to make air safety the association’s highest priority. Despite the recession impacting significantly on airline performance, in some cases leading to billion dollar losses annually, Bisignani lauded air carriers for their attempts to improve safety performance.

The airline industry has also had to deal with increasingly high profile security concerns and budget restraints which make the new safety statistics all the more impressive as the global passenger network places airlines more and more under the microscope.

The previous best performance in the IATA safety performance surveys was recorded in 2006 when the score reached 0.65, and although the 2009 figure was the closest to this number the world was still lamenting the 19 western-built aircraft accidents that occurred during the year, with all but one resulting in fatalities.

There were a total of 685 deaths under the IATA governance in 2009, with the majority being from the Air France 448 tragedy over the Atlantic in which 228 people perished. The other areas of concern were airport runways which accounted for 26 percent of the accident total, pilot error at 30 percent and ground damage with 10 percent.