Boeing crashes, Singapore Airlines turbulence raise flight safety concerns

While 2024 won’t match that record, it has been an average year in terms of aviation safety. However, public perception remains uneasy. Web searches in the United States for “flight safety” in March reached the highest level since October 2014, according to Google Trends.

That year, a decade ago, was particularly bad for aviation deaths. The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 in March it was followed by the shootdown of the same aircraft carrier flight 17 on Ukraine in July and a AirAsia crash in December.
This year’s accidents have caused far fewer deaths than in early 2014 or in 2019, when the second of two Boeing 737 Max flights crashed in March. killing 157 people in Ethiopia.

Five people aboard a Japan Coast Guard turboprop lost their lives in early January when the plane ventured into the runway of an approaching Airbus A350. While no one was killed in the Jan. 5 structural failure of a 737 Max 9 operated by Alaska Air Group Inc., the crash dealt a serious blow to Boeing’s credibility and passenger confidence.

Since then, there have been a number of minor incidents, from a Delta Air Lines Inc. Boeing 757 losing a nose wheel to a United Airlines Holdings Inc. 737 Max. skid off a track in Houston, have received extensive media coverage.

On the flight from London to Singapore this week, a 73-year-old Briton died of a suspected heart attack after the plane encountered severe turbulence.

“There is reason for the public to be concerned, but I think the concern is high because of the real focus that some news stations have taken,” said John Goglia, an aviation security expert and former member of the National Aviation Safety Board. transport. “The wheel that fell off the plane would never have gone anywhere; in some local newspapers it may have been a one-inch column.”

In fact, government statistics indicate that the United States is having a fairly normal year.

In the United States, there were 11 accidents and incidents on commercial passenger or cargo flights in the first quarter, according to the NTSB database. That’s slightly above the average of 9.7 in the decade from 2010 to 2019. Severe cases were four in the quarter, slightly above the pre-Covid average of 3.3. The figures are based on cases investigated by the NTSB, which include all accidents and only some incidents, so the figures may vary.


One dead and dozens injured after Singapore Airlines flight hits severe turbulence

One dead and dozens injured after Singapore Airlines flight hits severe turbulence

Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration reported progress in a problem area. The rate of serious runway incursions in the first quarter decreased 59 percent from the same period in 2023, a historically high year for these types of events. The current rate for 2024 is below the annual average of 0.31 per million aircraft operations over the past decade, according to data provided to Bloomberg.

“Aviation is the safest way to travel and that’s because we never take anything for granted,” said the FAA, responsible for airline safety in the United States. “We are always looking for risks and ways to mitigate them.”

The widespread attention on Boeing has brought significant attention to the plane maker, with some travelers leaking their 737 Max planes. However, many of the incidents have occurred with older aircraft and are more likely to be due to an airline operational or maintenance issue than to the original design or build quality.

“In this environment, any operational event, no matter how routine, can attract enormous attention,” Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said at the company’s annual meeting on May 17.

Many of the events that have worried aviators this year, from landing gear collapses to pilots skidding off runways, are classified as incidents rather than more serious “accidents,” which the International Civil Aviation Organization defined as those in which a person is fatally or seriously injured. the aircraft suffers damage that requires repair or the aircraft disappears.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t improvements to be made, according to Loren Groff, chief data scientist at the NTSB. He noted work being done to improve staffing and training of air traffic controllers after some recent errors and near-collisions on runways.

“Overall, it’s amazing that the United States aviation system, and most of the world in general, can do something so complex so successfully,” Groff said. “Would you be afraid of aviation in some way? No, absolutely not.”

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