Despite Russia leading the world in fatal airline crashes, 2011 was one of the safest years ever for commercial passenger flights. A map illustrates accident records by country.

For commercial passenger flights worldwide, 2011 was one of the safest years ever.

There were accidents on 18 scheduled passenger flights, resulting in 373 fatalities. While any death is sad, the overall statistic is impressively low when compared to the millions of flights that take off each year. According to data from the International Air Transport Association, the chance of a commercial Western-built aircraft having an accident last year was one in three million.

In a new survey, the Air Transport Rating Agency (ATRA) evaluated the world’s safest airlines based on several factors, including average fleet age and use of flight simulators for the training of pilots. In alphabetical order, the winners are: Air France-KLM, AMR Corporation (American Airlines, American Eagles), British Airways, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Japan Airlines, Lufthansa, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and US Airways.

Russia faced the most safety troubles, with six fatal accidents in 2011, including a dramatic one that claimed the lives of an elite hockey team. But Iran endured the deadliest single accident of the year on 9 January, when an Iran Air Boeing 727 crashed near Orumiyeh, killing 77.

The US was lucky, with not a single passenger killed on a scheduled passenger flight in 2011.

To put all of the above information into perspective, we created a map of the countries showing the most troublesome accident records for commercial passenger aircraft. We relied on data from the Aviation Safety Network, a private, independent initiative founded in 1996 to keep a public database of accidents. The organisation’s statistics evaluate scheduled flights on multi-engine civil airliners, meaning the kind of plane a leisure or ordinary business traveller would normally fly on. Military accidents, cargo carriers and corporate jets don’t count.

In Russia, there is an ongoing problem with aircraft left over from the Soviet era, though the government has recognised the issue and says it is redoubling its efforts to ensure the safety of passengers going forward. Canada’s record of three fatal accidents was an unusual statistical blip when seen in the context of a decade long trend. Africa's safety record improved in general, though the Democratic Republic of Congo had a particularly bad year with three accidents. Africa also has the most number of airlines on the European Union's aviation blacklist, a list of airlines forbidden to serve European airports.