Air safety soars to new highs

Air
travel has been getting increasingly frustrating, with fees, crowds and other
hassles, but passengers may be glad to know that 2009 was a banner year for
aviation safety.

The
year’s accident rate for Western-built jet aircraft was the second lowest in
modern aviation history — just behind 2006, according to a new report by the
International Air Transport Association. The group started keeping records in
1964.

“It’s
the airlines continuing to invest in training and technology on the aircraft,”
said Steve Lott, the group’s head of communications for North America.

“We
like to remind passengers that they are still in very safe hands. Aviation is still the safest form of
transportation, and looking at the statistics, it’s still very rare and growing
increasingly rare that we see any accidents.”

In
2009, the global accident rate for Western-built jet aircraft equalled to one
accident for every 1.4 million flights, the air transport
group

found.

To
put it another way, if you were to take a flight every day, odds are you could
go 3,859 years without an accident, according to the group’s report.

When
accidents did happen last year, pilot handling was a contributing factor in 30
per cent of the cases, showing how important the human element is to aviation
safety, Lott said.

Runway
excursions, such as the December incident when an American Airlines jet overran
a runway in Kingston, Jamaica, accounted for 26 per cent of accidents in 2009.

Ground
damage accounted for a 10th of accidents last year.

The
2009 accident rate was significantly higher on Eastern-built aircraft, or those
made in Russia and China, but flights on those planes represent about 2 per cent
of all flights around the world, Lott said.

The
International Air Transport Association represents 230 airlines around the
globe, including major U.S. carriers such as American, Continental, Delta and
United.

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