Last year was the safest year in the history of flight. A recent study conducted by The Aviation Safety Network, a Netherlands-based aviation watchdog group, found that it’s safer than ever to be in the friendly skies. The study found just 10 fatal commercial and cargo airline flights that led to 44 passengers in 2017. Those numbers are way down from the usual five year average of 17 crashes and nearly 500 fatalities.
Airline disasters have been on a steady decline for the past 25 years. Aviation in the United States is even safer than our counterparts around the globe. Major airlines in the United States have not seen a fatal crash since 2001. The last fatality in the United States on a carrier was in February 2009.
While some outside the industry are taking credit for the improvement last year, what is the real reason that led to the drop in crashes? Why have flights become increasingly safer over the years?
The decline in crashes comes as more people all over the globe are flying than ever before. With the increase in passengers comes an increased security and inspection tools. More passengers means more resources for the airlines to improve aircraft, safety and security.
Another reason why it’s safer to fly each year is because of technology that expanded right around the time that the decline in accidents, 1992. That was the year many airlines started to take advantage of new technology like collision avoidance systems, ground proximity warning systems and crew training. Technology has also helped improve air traffic control.
Engineering has improved in aviation steadily over the last 40 years. Over the past two decades more automation has also improved the safety of airplanes. Engines have become more reliable as well. Just a few decades ago engine failures were common in the industry, with many planes able to fly about 10 times as long as they used to on an engine.
Global organizations like Flight Safety Foundation and the International Civil Aviation Organization, run by the United Nations have worked in the United States and elsewhere to improve safety. The International Civil Aviation Organization performs audits to see how well nations have implemented safety standards and procedures. The organization and other groups are key to helping nations understand where they need to improve, especially key for developing nations.
The study did warn that safety may come under threat, mostly due to electronics being brought on planes. ION batteries, especially, are a fire risk, and one of the major dangers that the aviation world will have to deal with in the immediate future.
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