Study Shows Decline In Pilot Error For Airlines

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Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have found that while the overall rate of airline mishaps between 1983 and 2002 remained stable, the number of those attributed to pilot error decreased 40 percent. Weather-related pilot mistakes dropped by 76 percent, those attributed to mishandling wind or surface conditions dropped by 78 percent, mishaps attributed to poor crew communication declined 68 percent, and mishaps during takeoff declined 70 percent. Overall, mishaps during the study's survey period were increasingly attributed to ground crews and "congestion" on airport taxiways. The largest increase in mishaps was found in handling aircraft near the gate -- when the aircraft was being pushed back or standing still, mishaps more than doubled. Those increases were attributed to increased airport congestion and pilot error was found to be the least common factor in those situations. The findings, published in the January 2007 edition of Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine, attribute the shift to better training and technological improvements that aid pilot decision-making.