A startling rash of deadly aviation accidents -- four in less than two weeks -- have left six people dead and many Alaskans reeling in overwhelming grief.

With so much trauma, so much loss, it's difficult to put the accidents in perspective and analyze Alaska's aviation safety. And yet, despite the grief and sorrow, a closer look at Alaska 2013 flying season, so far, reveals a bit of good news amid all the hard news headlines.

This year has been safer for pilots than many years past, according to an analysis of National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) accident data dating back to 2003*. The simple fact: there have actually been fewer aircraft accidents this year, in Alaska, than in those previous.

A survey of the data through early September of each year from 2003-2013 reveals an annual mean of 79 aviation-related accidents.