Airline fatalities in 1999 fell to one of the lowest levels in recent years, but hull losses reached their highest total, says the Aviation Insurance Officers Association.

There were 512 passenger fatalities in 1999, but airline hull insurers faced the highest ever total of hull losses at $985m.

Severe weather was the cause behind many crashes. Rainstorms in Hong Kong contributed to the China Airlines MD-11 crash and the Qantas Boeing 747-400 in Bangkok. Freak hailstorms in Sydney in April affected several airlines.

There were 202 passengers and 15 crew killed in the Egyptair Boeing 767 over the Atlantic ocean near New York.

Graham Nichols, chairman for the Aviation Insurance Officer's Association, said there was still overcapacity in the market and the industry was seeing a strengthening of terms and conditions in the first quarter of this year.