The U.S. airline industry has set a new record, going two full, consecutive years without a fatality. Sure, there have been accidents and some scary moments, but this has arguably been the safest time to fly since the advent of commercial jet travel.
The reason air travel has been so safe is a convergence of strict government oversight and new technology. Flying is still hazardous, but passengers are safer onboard planes than ever before. According to USA Today, the “fatality risk fell to 68 per billion fliers this decade, less than half the risk in the 1990s,” and that number has plunged to 19 per billion since 2002. Analysts point to the recent fiery crash of a Continental plane in Denver, in which five people were seriously injured but no one was killed, as evidence of improvements in passenger safety.
But while the past two years have been safe, they haven’t always been smooth. Earlier this year, the House had to pass safety reforms in response to FAA inspection lapses at numerous airlines. The FAA also took some heat for recruiting young (i.e. teenage) air traffic controllers.
But the FAA has also hammered airlines with hefty fines and made strides (and angered the airlines) with crew rest rules designed to address safety concerns related to pilot fatigue.
I’m sure few of us like to think about the inherent risks of air travel, but it’s good to know that the airlines’ track record is improving.
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