The most dangerous skies for pilots are in Alaska -- where many of the country's 72 fatalities occurred last year.
More than 10,000 professional pilots work in Alaska, often ferrying cargo and passengers to isolated towns or dropping hunters or fishermen into remote areas.
Many fly older planes and are inexperienced and unfamiliar with the state's challenging terrain and weather conditions, said Will Johnson, owner of Yute Air Taxi, a charter service operated out of Fairbanks and Anchorage.
"They come here trying to build time for careers in the Lower 48," he said. However, while building that experience, they might find themselves in a patch of thick clouds and accidentally fly straight into a mountain slope, he said.
New electronic systems that provide better information about weather, terrain and air traffic have improved safety. And cameras have been set up all over the state so pilots can better see the conditions they're heading into.