In an ironic twist of statistical interpretation, a case can be made that 2001 turned out to be the safest year for flying since the end of World War II.

According to the Aviation Safety Network, a Netherlands-based global database, 2001 saw fewer major airplane accidents worldwide-34-than any year since 1945, when such statistics first were gathered. According to the ASN, the September 11 attacks that involved four U.S. commercial airliners are not counted as accidents, but as purposeful crashes by terrorists.

The 34 accidental crashes resulted in 1,118 deaths, significantly lower than the annual average of 50 crashes and 1,451 deaths, according to the ASN.

The ASN reported only three major airplane accidents in the United States in 2001, one of which occurred Nov. 12 when American Airlines flight 587 crashed into a New York City suburb killing 265 people. The other two U.S. crashes-one involving a cargo plane in Alaska, the other an air taxi in Michigan-resulted in a total of four deaths, according to the ASN.

For more information, see the Aviation Safety Network Web site at www.aviation-safety.net.