Aviation Safer Than Ever

Despite the stories, photos, and video clips of aircraft crashes and high performance airshow acts I frequently post here at the House of Rapp, I’ve always maintained that aviating is a generally safe activity.

Airshow flying and military aviation — two things I often highlight — are rare exceptions. They push the envelope only after highly specialized training, and the pilots are fully aware of the risk involved.

But for Joe Average, flying presents relatively little risk. That’s not just opinion talking. It’s a statement based on detailed long term statistics from the NTSB and the Air Safety Foundation.

And those stats get better every year. Here’s the latest:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The number of civil aviation accidents in the United States fell by 8 percent last year, according to preliminary statistics released Tuesday.

The National Transportation Safety Board reported that civil aviation accidents declined from 1,864 in 2003 to 1,715 last year. There were also 9 percent fewer deaths in 2004 — 635, down from 695 the year before.

“There is a single strong common thread among safety that’s woven among every aspect of aviation, from the design of the aircraft through the systems on board to the training the pilots receive,” said Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Greg Martin. “The payoff is the safest three years in aviation history.”

The NTSB singled out general aviation flying in 2004, noting that it was the safest year in history:

Private planes were also involved in fewer crashes last year. The accident rate fell from 6.77 per 100,000 flight hours to 6.22, the lowest recorded by the NTSB since it began keeping statistics in 1975. There were 1,715 general aviation accidents in 2004, down from 1,864 the year before.

The FAA’s Martin said the agency has learned much about improving general aviation safety from the Capstone Project, which focuses on adopting modern aviation technology in Alaska, where many people travel on small private planes.

I’m not sure why the FAA thinks Capstone is especially noteworthy. As I understand it, relatively few of Alaska’s 9,904 aircraft have the required equipment to take advantage of the Capstone technology. But I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Whatever the reason — and there are undoubtedly many from which to choose — aviation is safer than ever.

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