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GENEVA, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Global airline safety rates, covering total crashes and passenger deaths, have improved by nearly 50 per cent this year over the first 11 months of 2010, the International Air Transport Association said on Wednesday.
Geneva-based IATA said 2011 was heading to be proportionately the safest year on record for travellers and the aircraft they fly in.
Total fatal accidents up to Nov. 30 were 22, causing the deaths of 486 passengers and crew. Last year's totals were 23 and 786. In 2006, 855 people died in 20 crashes.
All world regions including Africa, long one of the most dangerous for air travel, have this year seen a proportional drop in fatalities and plane losses -- with the lone exception of Russia and countries linked to it in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), IATA said.
"As of the end of November, the global safety performance (of the industry) is at the best level recorded, and is 49 percent better than the same time last year," IATA senior vice-president for safety Gunther Matschnigg told reporters.
IATA's membership incorporates some 240 airlines in 118 countries operating international services accounting for 84 percent of total global traffic. Low-cost, or budget, airlines have their own grouping and are not included in the figures.
IATA measures its members' safety performance by the number of accidents and aircraft losses per million take-offs.
By this reckoning, North America has an accident rate so far this year of 1.18 against 1.51 in 2010, Europe has a rate of 1.39 against 1.59, Asia-Pacific has 1.39 against 2.61, Latin America 4.57 against 6.85, and Africa has 6.34 against 17.11.
The overall global rate so far this year is 4.57 against 6.85 in 2010.
But in Russia and the CIS -- an area where under Soviet rule until 1991 safety standards were low and air accidents went largely unreported -- the rate had risen from 7.15 in 2010 to 11.07 so far this year, IATA said.
One of 2011's most high-profile Russian air disasters was September's crash at Yaroslavl, on the Volga north-east of Moscow, which killed 45 passengers, including the 37 members of the local Lokomotiv ice hockey squad.
An official report last month said the pilots of the plane, a Russian Yak-42 jet operated by a small local company whose licence has since been revoked, were inadequately trained and the co-pilot was under the influence of banned sedatives.
Matschsnigg, speaking at IATA's annual briefing for journalists covering the industry, said a key problem in Russia was that pilots and ground technicians were having to adapt to a growing number of highly sophisticated aircraft.
He said Russian aviation officials and the country's political leaders had accepted that pilot training needed rapid improvement and would shortly be implementing IATA's safety programme, IOSA.
The IATA safety chief credited the seven-year-old programme, which provides for thorough and regular checks on all aspects of flight security and aircraft maintenance as well as training of personnel, for the major improvement in Africa. (Reporting by Robert Evans; Editing by Will Waterman)