Airline Safety Record Improves

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It's been another good year for U.S. airline safety and it's not all just good luck, say government officials. While some in the industry say the statistical bubble could burst with a single accident, both the NTSB and FAA are inching out on a limb to take credit for the relative absence of accidents in the last three years. For the record, 34 people have died in airline accidents since 2001 (in 2002, none died). An accident in Charlotte, N.C., in 2003 killed 21 people and 13 died in Kirksville, Mo., in 2004. Considering that more than 40,000 people died in cars, NTSB Chairman Ellen Engelmann Connors is pretty happy with the stats. "I hope all modes of transportation could replicate aviation's safety record," she told The Associated Press. FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said new technology, in the form of terrain- and traffic-warning systems, runway-incursion warnings and better navigation gear, have all contributed to the improvement. The FAA has set a goal of reducing airline fatalities by 80 percent by 2007. The relative safety of the previous three years has cut the rate by 50 percent and the FAA believes it's on track to meet its objective. But while safety appears to be improving, some experts say that that, in itself, can be dangerous. "When we have a real safe period, people get complacent," said Bill Waldock, a safety instructor for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.