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Is Flying Safer Now? - Facts & Infographic

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According to the Aviation Safety Database, 2014 has been an extremely dangerous year for passengers with as many as 80 incidents involving civilian and military aircraft in this year till date.

 

The previous year was much safer, with only 22 significant incidents in 2013, whereas there have been 16 significant incidents till date in 2014.

 

According to the International Air Transport Association, between 2009 and 2013 there have been an average of 517 deaths annually in commercial aviation incidents. Now Malaysian Airlines alone has exceeded that death toll this year with 298 + 239 = 537 deaths till July 2014.

 

According to the Aviation Safety Network, 2012 has been the safest year in terms of aviation accidents across the world since 1945. Of the 23 fatal airlines accidents, 511 people died. This is well below the annual average of 34 commercial aviation accidents and 773 fatalities in the past decade. And yet, the recent crash of the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 after a 10 hour flight from Seoul in South Korea, at San Francisco International Airport on July 6, 2013 has raised a number of pertinent questions about the safety of air travel and civil aviation security across the world.

 

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) about 3 billion people flew safely on 37.5 million flights in 2012 while there were six crashes and 75 accidents. According to a 2011 study, flying in the US is 23 times safer than driving and is about as risky as riding an escalator. The fear of flying is greatly perception based. The Asiana Airlines Flight 214 itself was survived by 304 of the 307 on board.

 

While these crashes may have been due to bad weather or technical malfunctions, the recent terrorist attacks, and mysterious incidents affecting a major airline, are making many travelers rethink their plans and wonder if this previously reliable mode of transport can really be safe again?

 

Why Planes Crash?

Apart from sabotage or intentional harm, air accidents are generally caused due to

Environmental Factors

Weather plays a key role in flight safety. Poor visibility, lightning, cloud bursts, and other inimical weather conditions hike up the risks of an aviation accident. Bird hits may also cause damage to the craft and the airfoil. A number of airports across the world are deficient in bird-search radars and do not deploy audiovisual aids to scare birds.

 

Technical Factors

Technical factors contributing to a crash could include lack of adequate radio-navigational aids, mechanical problems with the engine/avionics, or parts malfunctioning during flight. Technical errors include system issues. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner suffered from a number of fires on board related to its lithium-ion batteries.

In January 2013, the FAA grounded all 787s in the US. The EASA, Japanese Transport Ministry, India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), and Chile's Dirección General de Aeronautica Civil (DGAC) also grounded all Dreamliners in their airspace. The ban was lifted by FAA in April 2013 after Boeing revised the battery design completely.

 

Human Error Factors

The human error factor is the most poignant and important among all the causes for crashes. Pilot/ground crew fatigue, experience, mental-physical strength are all contributing factors. Competent air traffic controllers and pilots with adequate English language skills are imperative to effective radio communication as well.

In March 2012, Captain Clayton Osbon of Jet Blue suffered a major break down midway through JetBlue Flight 191. A major disaster was averted when First Officer Jason Dowd took over and locked the captain out of the cockpit to make a safe landing. The captain was hospitalized and placed in a mental health facility upon landing.

According to statistics from planecrashinfo.com, pilot error has been the leading cause of aviation accidents through all time.

Cause

1950s

1960s

1970s

1980s

1990s

2000s

All

Pilot Error

41

34

24

26

27

30

29

Pilot Error (weather related)

10

17

14

18

19

19

16

Pilot Error (mechanical related)

6

5

5

2

5

5

5

Total Pilot Error

57

56

43

46

51

54

50

Other Human Error

2

9

9

6

9

5

7

Weather

16

9

14

14

10

8

12

Mechanical Failure

21

19

20

20

18

24

22

Sabotage

5

5

13

13

11

9

9

Other Cause

0

2

1

1

1

0

1

 

Worst Crashes In Civil Aviation

 

Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 - The recent shooting down of a passenger aircraft, Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) has mademany potential travelers rethink their flight plans. On 17 July 2014, MH17 was flying at an altitude of 33,000 feet, about 40 miles east of Donetsk, Ukraine, on an international flight path from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Without any warning, about 90 minutes into the flight, the Boeing 777-200 commercial aircraft was suddenly hit by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile, launched possibly by rebel forces fighting against the Ukrainian government. The plane was carrying 298 people (283 passengers and 15 crew members), none of whom survived. As the world awaits an investigation into this tragic air disaster, the question on everyone’s minds is: Is Flying Safer or More Dangerous Now?

 

The unprovoked firing on a civilian aircraft has caused grave international concern. Malaysia, the EU, and the US have called upon Ukraine and Russia to cooperate fully with the investigation in order to arrive at the truth behind this tragic incident. This is the second disaster to have hit Malaysian Airlines in recent times.

 

Boeing 777-200, MH370 - On 8 March 2014, another Boeing 777-200, MH370 on an international flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing, China disappeared on the way. The flight had 239 people on board (227 passengers and 12 crew members) whose fate remains a mystery at this time. After initial searches, aviation experts studied the transmissions between the aircraft and an Inmarsat satellite, as well as military radar reports from nearby countries, and concluded that the aircraft had been diverted from its scheduled flight path, and after it last made contact, it had continued to fly for seven hours. Mysteriously the aircraft’s ACARS (Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System ) and transponder were turned off during this later stage of the flight. The search was focused on an area in the southern Indian Ocean, to the west of Australia and included underwater exploration by a robotic submarine. However no trace of the aircraft, or its “black boxes” (flight data recorders) have yet been found.

 

Possible theories for the disappearance of MH 370 are:

  1. The pressurized cabin became depressurized, leading to the crew and passengers becoming unconscious

  2. Toxic fumes may have spread through the cabin incapacitating the crew and passengers.

  3. A fire broke out onboard the plane that damaged its communications systems.

  4. The plane was hijacked by terrorists.

  5. The aircraft was deliberately diverted from its flight path by the pilot or co-pilot.

 

None of these theories offer a complete solution to the mysterious disappearance of MH370, and the search continues.

Malaysian Airlines authorities say the search will continue in August 2014 in an Indian Ocean region about 2,000 kilometers west of Perth, Australia, and will cover a section of the ocean which is 60,000 sq km in area. The search is planned for 12 months and will cost US$56 million.

These twin disasters are likely to have an impact on the future of Malaysian Airlines with some analysts wondering if the airline can withstand the double blow.Malaysian Airlineshave already fallen by 35% this year.

 

Jinnah International Airport Attacked - In Pakistan, on 8 June 2014, Jinnah International Airport in Karachi was attacked by armed militants of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan in coordination with an Al Qaeda-linked militant group, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Several planes were damaged, 36 people were killed (including 10 attackers) and 18 people were wounded. The dead included Pakistan International Airways (PIA) officials. After the attack, Jinnah International Airport was closed down and all flight were diverted till the security forces cleared the area in a 28-hour operation.

 

Nepal Airlines DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 - On 16 February 2014, a Nepal Airlines DHC-6 Twin Otter 300 crashed near Sandhikhark with 18 passengers on board. There were no survivors.

 

Algerian Air Force Lockheed C-130H-30 - On 11 February 2014, an Algerian Air Force Lockheed C-130H-30 Hercules transport aircraft carrying 76 Algerian security personnel crashed near AïnKercha. There were no survivors.
 

Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain) - March 27, 1977 - 583 people died when two Boeing 747s collided on the runway in Tenerife. In what is deemed the worst accident in the history of commercial aviation, KLM Flight 4805 and Pan Am Flight 1736 collided due to bad weather conditions, lack of radar capabilities and other miscommunications.

 

Mount Osutaka (Japan) - August 12, 1985 - A total of 520 people (15 crew and 505 passengers) died when Japan Airlines Flight 123 left Tokyo en route to Osaka but a failure of the Boeing 747SR's rear pressure led to a crash into Mount Takamagahara.

 

Charkhi Dadri, near New Delhi (India) - November 12, 1996 - Saudi Arabian Airlines Flight 763 and Kazakhstan Airlines Flight 1907 collided mid-air over the village of Charkhi Dadri in India killing all 349 passengers on both flights. The Kazakhstani pilots were found to be deficient in English language skills and the New Delhi airport was found to lack secondary surveillance radar.

 

Paris (France) – March 3, 1974 – 346 people died when a Turkish Airlines Flight 981 crashed outside the French capital. The rear cargo hatch of the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 had blown off, causing the cables to split and leaving the pilots with no control.

 

Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) - August 19, 1980 - 287 passengers and 14 crew members on board Saudi Arabian Flight 163 caught fire right after takeoff from Riyadh International Airport on a flight to Jeddah. The Lockheed L-1011-200 TriStar made an emergency landing but evacuation was delayed leading to the high causality count.

 

Chicago (USA) – May 25, 1979 – 271 people (258 passengers and 13 crew members) died when the engine on the left wing of the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 fell off and damaged the craft of the American Airlines Flight 191 in one of the worst aviation disasters in the US.

 

New York (USA) - November 12, 2001 - 260 passengers and 5 people on the ground were killed when American Airlines Flight 587 (Airbus A300) crashed into the Belle Harbor neighborhood of Queens. The accident was attributed to the first officer’s overuse of rudder controls to balance out turbulence from a flight that had taken off a few minutes prior.

 

Komaki (Japan) - April 26, 1994 - A total of 264 crew and passengers died when the first officer of the China Airlines Flight 140 made an error just before landing at the Nagoya Airport in Japan. The Airbus A300 malfunctioned when the pilot accidentally pressed a take-off button while landing.

 

Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) - July 11, 1991 - 261 people, most of whom were pilgrims travelling to Mecca died on board the Nigeria Airways Flight 2120 when the McDonnell Douglas DC-8 caught fire and the craft crashed at a distance of about 19 kilometers from the King Abdulaziz International Airport.

 

Mount Erebus, Ross Island (Antarctica) - November 9, 1979 - 257 people died when a McDonnell-Douglas DC-10 operated by Air New Zealand crashed during a sightseeing tour. The Air New Zealand Flight 901 crash was the reason the sightseeing tour was called off.

 

Safest Airlines

In January 2013, the Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Centre (JACDEC) released its rankings of the safest airlines in the world based on a compilation of data going back to 1983. According to the JACDEC, the top 15 safe airlines of the world are

Airline

Country

Fatalities Since 1983

Years Since Last Hull Loss

Finnair

Finland

0

30

Air New Zealand

New Zealand

0

30

Cathay Pacific

Hong Kong (China)

0

30

Emirates

UAE

0

27

Etihad Airways

UAE

0

9

EVA Air

Taiwan

0

21

TAP Portugal

Portugal

0

30

Hainan Airlines

China

0

19

Virgin Australia

Australia

0

12

British Airways

UK

0

4

Lufthansa

Germany

2

19

All Nippon Airways

Japan

0

30

Qantas

Australia

0

30

JetBlue Airways

USA

0

12

Virgin Atlantic Airways

UK

0

28

 

According to the JACDEC, the top North American airlines by safety are –

Airline

Rank

JetBlue

14

Southwest

21

Air Canada

25

Delta

28

United

31

American

42

US Airways

44

Alaska Airlines

45

 

The JACDEC rankings, though widely regarded, have been criticized for their emphasis on historic data while most airlines across the world have upgraded their safety benchmarks in the past decade.

The Travel+Liesure magazine combined the JACDEC ratings and the Air Transport Rating Agency rankings and put together a list of the safest airlines in June 2013, with an advantage to the airlines with the youngest fleet. Their top rankings are held by

 

Rank

Airline

1

Lufthansa

2

British Airways

3

Qantas

3

SouthWest

5

Cathay Pacific

6

KLM

7

Emirates

8

United/Continental

9

Delta

10

US Airways

 

Sabotage And Security

 

Sabotage and security are among the major concerns faced by airlines through the years. The first known episode of a commercial airplane hijack was on July 16, 1948 when hijackers attempted to gain control of a Cathay Pacific seaplane causing it to crash into the sea between Macau and Hong Kong. Some of the most notorious hijacking cases include -

  • Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305 (1971) [D. B. Cooper case]

  • Pan Am Flight 73 (1986)

  • Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961 (1996)

  • Indian Airlines Flight 814 (1999)

 

Recent Hijacking Attempts

Turkish Airlines Flight 1754 (January 2011) - Hijacking was attempted in the Bulgarian airspace on the flight from Oslo to Istanbul. The hijacker was overpowered and the flight made a safe emergency landing at Atatürk International Airport.

Alitalia Flight 329 (April 2011) - Hijacking was attempted on the flight en route from Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris, France to Fiumicino Airport, Rome. The hijacker tried to divert it to Tripoli International Airport, Libya. The hijacker was overpowered by the cabin crew and passengers and the flight landed in Rome.

Tianjin Airlines Flight GS7554 (June 2012): Hijacking attempt on the flight from Hotan to Ürümqi by six armed persons was foiled by 6 police officers on board. The plane returned to Hotan safely.

 

Hijacking is not the only security concern faced by air travellers. Planes and aircrafts have been the target of bombs and terrorist threats for a number of decades now. On June 23, 1985, Air India Flight 182, operating on the Montreal–London–Delhi route was blown up at an altitude of 31,000 feet (over the Atlantic Ocean) in what is called "the deadliest aviation disaster to occur over a water body". The bombing killed all 329 people on board the Boeing 747-237B jumbo jet. Canada-based Sikh militant group Babbar Khalsa was among the prime suspects but only Inderjit Singh Reyat, a Canadian resident, was the only one to receive a conviction for his involvement in the bombing.

 

On December 21, 1988, in what has been termed the "deadliest aviation incident" the Pan Am Flight 103 from Heathrow Airport in London, England, to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City was blown up by an explosive killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members. Additionally 11 people on the ground were killed by the Boeing 747–121 as it crashed in Scotland. Gaddafi-led Libya admitted to being behind the attack.

 

On September 11, 2001, 19 al-Qaeda terrorist made it past security personnel to hijack four aircrafts and launched devastating attacks on New York and Washington. The attacks killed 2,996 people in all and injured over 6,000 others. The death toll includes about 260 passengers and crew on board the four crashed planes. The incident served as a wakeup call to airport security systems and organizations in the US and all around the globe. Most major airports reviewed their security guidelines, took stock of their systems, and revamped their processes. In the US, the Transportation Security Administration was set up as a centralized agency to manage airport security. The TSA was the largest federal start-up since 1950. Over 60,000 security personnel were hired by the TSA to screen passengers and baggage at over 450 American airports. A number of security process changes quickly followed in the US.

  • Following the 9/11 attacks, it became mandatory for security personnel to do a 100% screening of passengers and baggage.

  • All passengers are required to carry valid identification issued by the government for verification.

  • Following Richard Reid’s December 2001 attempt to detonate a bomb concealed in his shoe, it became mandatory for passengers to remove shoes for security screening.

  • In 2006, an attempt to carry liquid explosives into 10 transatlantic flights from the UK bound to the US and Canada was foiled. Following this, passengers were only allowed to carry liquids in small quantities.

  • In 2009, Umar Abdulmutallab attempted to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear. Following the incident, full-body scanners were installed in most of the major airports of the world.

 

What Are The Odds?

According to a study by the Valk Foundation, a joint project of the University of Leiden, KLM, and the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, about 40% of people experience some anxiety about flying. Most of the anxiety and fear surrounding flying come from the perception that flying is not safe or that chances of surviving a crash are slim.

Contrary to popular perception, the odds of a plane accident are about 1 in 1.2 million. Also being in a plane crash need not necessarily be fatal. Among the 568 plane crashes in the US between 1980 and 2000, over 90% of crash victims survived. An average American’s chances of being killed in a plane crash are one in 14 million. The survival rate in even one of the major crashes is about 76%.

The best chances of surviving an air crash also depends on the seats you may choose. Those seated in the first five rows have a much higher chance of surviving a crash than those seated elsewhere. Knowledge of safety procedures, awareness of exits and preparedness adds 35%-40% chances of a person’s ability to safely evacuate a craft with a snag. In the past decade, airline passengers were 10 times more likely to die in air accidents than they are now. Studies also suggest that passenger alertness in the first three minutes and the last eight minutes of a flight could be a major factor in surviving crashes since over 80% flight accidents occur during this time. It is suggested that passengers avoid alcohol, stay alert and remove earphones during this time.

Tips To Surviving A Plane Crash

  • Take a seat in the first five rows

  • Pick an aisle seat

  • Take off headphones and follow safety instructions closely

  • Make a note of the nearest exits when you board a plane

  • Stay alert during landing and take off

 

Click here for more information about Plane Disappearances.

Malaysia Airlines Flight Schedule

About Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 Shot Down in Ukraine

Plane Disappearances Around the World

 

Sources -

http://www.ibtimes.com/worst-plane-crashes-history-their-aftermath-1315189

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/8588663/Ten-worst-plane-crashes-in-the-world.html

http://www.firstpost.com/world/list-some-of-the-worst-plane-disasters-in-us-and-across-the-world-937181.html

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/travel/columnist/baskas/2008-07-08-fear-of-flying-classes_N.htm

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/how-risky-is-flying.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/5402342.stm

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/political-science/2013/feb/14/fear-flying-hazards-communicating-risk

http://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/safetystudies/SR0101.pdf

http://popwatch.ew.com/2013/07/08/plane-crash-survival-tips/

http://adventure.howstuffworks.com/how-to-survive-a-plane-crash.htm

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http://blogs.star-telegram.com/sky_talk/american_airlines/

http://www.bizjournals.com/dayton/news/2013/02/15/countdown-safest-us-airlines.html

http://edition.cnn.com/2013/07/07/us/plane-crash-main/index.html

http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/02/28/2012-was-the-safest-year-ever-to-travel-by-plane/#ixzz2YWX0cc7n

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http://www.smh.com.au/world/south-korean-plane-was-flying-too-slowly-to-reach-runway-before-crash-20130708-2plfr.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Reid

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airport_security_repercussions_due_to_the_September_11_attacks

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2006_transatlantic_aircraft_plot

http://www.blindloop.com/index.php/2011/02/5-famous-plane-hijacking-cases/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D._B._Cooper

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http://www.criminaljusticedegreesguide.com/features/10-most-terrifying-airplane-hijackings-of-all-time.html

http://www.farecompare.com/ask-rick/9-ways-security-has-changed-since-911/

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2011/09/how-911-changed-air-travel.html

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http://www.flightglobal.com/features/9-11/airport-security/

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aviation_accidents_and_incidents

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan_Am_Flight_103

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_India_Flight_182

http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/14854816

http://aviation-safety.net/database/

http://www.planecrashinfo.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Aviation_accidents_and_incidents_in_2013

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Aviation_accidents_and_incidents_in_2014

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/18/malaysia-airlines-survive-mh17-disaster-mh370-disappearance

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/18/malaysia-airlines-survive-mh17-disaster-mh370-disappearance

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Aviation_accidents_and_incidents_in_2013

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Aviation_accidents_and_incidents_in_2014

http://aviation-safety.net/database/

Is Flying Safer Now.


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