July has been a bad month for aviation.
It started with the deadly crash landing of Asiana Flight 214, which was followed by a fire on an empty Boeing Dreamliner, then a very hard landing of a Southwest plane in New York, then another Dreamliner fire, this time in midair.
Statistics show flying is still the safest form of travel, but what if this string of incidents is a sign that planes are suddenly becoming more dangerous?
It’s not, aviation expert Robert Ditchey told us in an interview.
Ditchey is a former Navy pilot who has worked as a manager at various airlines, and now works as an expert witness in aviation and airline industry litigation.
“There’s no link” between these different incidents, he said, pointing out that they happened on different aircraft, in totally different ways.
Asiana Flight 214, a Boeing 777, came in too low and too fast, and the tail struck the ground and broke off. The nose landing gear of Southwest Flight 345, a Boeing 737, hit the ground before the plane’s main gear did (which is not supposed to happen).
Of two recent fires on the Boeing Dreamliner, one was linked to the Emergency Locator Transmitter, and the other happened in an oven. Neither was related to earlier Dreamliner issues, which had to do with the jet’s lithium-ion batteries.
As Ditchey says, the various problems have “absolutely nothing in common,” except for the fact that they are all related to aeroplanes.
Asked what he would tell someone who hesitates to fly after the news about recent crash landings and fires, he said, “That’s fear of flying…which is not logical.”
Asked the same question, Patrick Smith, airline pilot, blogger, and author of Cockpit Confidential responded similarly:
“That’s ridiculous, and illogical. One problem here is the way the media sensationalizes these stories and strips them of context. People lose perspective. Overall, flying is statistically far safer than it was 20 or 30 years ago.”
Smith pointed to the year 1985, when nearly 2,400 people were killed in a terrible series of large-scale accidents.
“The past dozen years have been the safest in the entire history of commercial aviation,” he said. “The idea that recent events, unfortunate as they’ve been, indicate a reversal of that trend, is simply untrue.”
The bottom line: Air travel is no more dangerous today than is was in June. That makes it very, very safe.
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