There are many misconceptions about the safety of the airline industry. Many people are deathly afraid of flying, but airplanes are actually one of the safest modes of transportation on Earth. There are fewer deaths from flying than there are from train-going, driving, or even simply walking across the street in a crowded city.
In fact, in 2015, airplane accidents happened at a rate of one to three million. That is, for every 3.1 million flights, there was one crash, an incredibly low rate of accidents. The rate of fatalities and accidents were actually much higher in the 1970s and 1980s, as the airline industry hadn’t made the many safety adjustments they have up until this point. Here are a few examples of safety improvements the airline industry has made in the last decade to drive accidents and fatalities down and peace of mind way up.
Improvement in Pilot Fatigue Rules
In 2004, flight 5966 crashed short of the runway. There were eleven fatalities out of thirteen passengers onboard, prompting the FAA to implement new rules to prevent pilot fatigue. The crash happened because the pilot was extremely fatigued after flying for several straight hours without break.
The new rules limited the number of hours pilots can fly without a break. Even with advancements in auto-pilot and other automatic fixes, human error is one of the primarily reasons crashes happen. These pilot fatigue rules have remedied this serious problem. A restful crew is paramount to flying safely, and more crews have more rest than ever before because of these rules.
Additional Aircraft Redundancies
The most prominent thru thread in the history of aviation has been the improvements and increasing use of redundancy. Today’s pilots are well-trained and versed in many emergency scenarios, but the planes themselves are incredibly advanced and sophisticated.
Autopilot is more robust and frequently used than ever within each plane, which allow them to takeoff and land without problem. The newest planes in the air today are essentially fully automated and all of them are equipped with built-in redundancies, meaning if something fails, there’s always a backup part of component to take over and function properly.
Use of Satellite Technology
Many airlines have installed satellite technology in their planes. These instruments are quite advanced and sophisticated, such as cutting edged software and GPS devices. These tools have been installed in cockpits and help guide the plane to its destination in the most efficient way possible, while helping them avoid obstacles in the air at the same time.
Planes today can avoid bad weather and can reroute quickly and effectively when conditions aren’t optimal in any way, shape, or form. Although these changes have been costly, they’ve also helped the airline industry greatly reduce the number of plane crashes in the last ten years.
Cockpit Doors are Locked
Terrorism is a sadly unfortunate part of aviation’s history, but airlines and airports alike are doing all they can to limit the number of terrorist plots from unfolding. One of the simplest but actually most effective changes they’ve made is to lock cockpit doors during the actual flight.
Cockpit doors are now armored and can withstand a great deal of force before they’re opened, and there are frequently air marshals flying with flights to offer further protection. There are also firearms sometimes in planes, possessed by fully licensed air marshals. These changes were all implemented after the tragic day of September 11th and have worked wonders to reduce the number of terrorist accidents on planes.
Greater Passenger Consciousness of Safety
In the past, (way in the past) airplane passengers would smoke, sip cocktails, and generally have a great time aboard an airplane. Those days are long gone, as passengers have been exposed to the dangers of flight through news reports and the rare plane disaster over the last several decades. Today’s air travelers are well versed in the safety precautions in the air and can recite many of them from heart.
Airplanes are treated more like automobiles today, as seatbelts are buckled, and caution is generally exercised by the majority of people on any given flight. This raised awareness in most passengers has made flying a generally safer mode of transportation over the last few decades, in a slow and gradual way. There are also more people then ever flying, meaning people are generally more cautious and courteous while in the air.
Consolidation and Fuel Efficiency
Finally, airplanes, like many modes of transportation, have become more efficient, and the companies that run them have consolidated several times in the past twenty years. Names like Thomas Cook, NIKI Germanwings, Transaero, and Mexicana have all faded away and the airlines left standing have improved safety features in their planes, in addition to making them more fuel efficient. These events and facts have combined to make flying one of the safest ways to travel in the last decade, and the industry is only trending toward greatly safety improvements.