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Systemic Improvement in Airline, Aviation Safety
People, Travel

Systemic Improvement in Airline, Aviation Safety

There were more airline deaths worldwide due to deliberate acts in 2015 than to accidental air crashes for the second year in a row, according to an industry tally.
There were only eight accidental airline crashes last year accounting for 161 passenger and crew deaths — the fewest crashes and deaths since at least 1946.
The tally by Flightglobal, an aviation news and industry data company, excludes a German airliner that was deliberately flown into a mountainside in the French Alps last March, and a Russian airliner packed with tourist that exploded over Egypt in October. The toll for those two incidents was 374 killed, AP reported.
In 2014, the toll from a Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared and another that was shot down over Ukraine in 2014 was 537 deaths compared to 436 accident deaths that year.
“In recent years, airline safety has improved very considerably to the point where, typically, there are now very few fatal accidents and fatalities in a year,” said Paul Hayes, Flightglobal’s director of air safety and insurance. “However, flight security remains a concern.”
Although some years are better than others, the fatal accident rate has been improving for many years. The global fatal accident rate for all types of airline operations in 2015 was one per five million flights, the best year ever. The previous best year was 2014, with a fatal accident rate of one per 2.5 million flights. Airline operations are now about four or five times safer than they were 20 years ago.
Those tallies are for all types of airline flights, including cargo, positioning, training, and maintenance flights. There were just 98 paying passengers killed last year in accidental crashes compared to 790 in 2007. A far cry from the 1970s, when the annual average of passengers killed in accidental crashes was 1,289.
A big reason for the improving record is better engineering: Today’s airliners and aircraft engines are far safer than earlier generations of planes. They are more highly automated, which has reduced many common pilot errors. They have better satellite-based navigation systems. They are made of stronger, lighter weight, less corrosive materials.
Airplanes are also equipped with safety systems introduced in recent decades, and repeatedly improved over time, that have nearly eliminated mid-air collisions between airliners and what the industry calls “controlled flight into terrain” — pilots who lose situational awareness and fly their planes into a mountainside or into the ground.
“The aircraft improvements are due primarily to lessons learned from crash investigations that are taken into account when new planes are designed,” said John Goglia, a former US
National Transportation Safety Board member. “As older planes are replaced with newer planes, aviation becomes safer.”
“We’re now up to about the seventh generation of jet airplanes,” he said. “We know the first generation had a higher accident rate than the second or the third or the fourth generations, and it just moves on up.”

 

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