According to Frank Hilldrup, a top adviser for international relations at the National Transportation Safety Board, aviation safety has improved since 1996, the year of the TWA Flight 800 air tragedy and the worst year for air travel in the last three decades.
The Unforgettable Catastrophe
After taking off from John F. Kennedy International Airport at 8:31 p.m. (EDT) on a scheduled international passenger flight to Rome with a stopover in Paris, Trans World Airlines Flight 800 (TWA 800) went down in the Atlantic Ocean near East Moriches, New York on July 17, 1996. All 230 people on board were killed in the disaster, making it the third-deadliest aircraft catastrophe in U.S. history. There were 16 Montoursville Area High School students and five adult chaperones among the passengers.
Ill-Starred Year Of Aviation History
To Hilldrup, who was engaged in the investigation of Flight 800, the year 1996 was a particularly disastrous year for commercial aviation catastrophes in his retrospective remarks.
“It was a hectic year,” he recalls, “with a lot of terrible occurrences. I was continuously on the investigations.”
Three hundred and fifty-five U.S. flight passengers were murdered that year, according to data, making it the deadliest year in air travel in a decade and also double the number from the previous year.
In 1996, there were 1,179 recorded aviation deaths worldwide. Since then, the figure hasn’t risen higher than a thousand.
Improvements In Aviation And Its Technology
According to Hilldrup, improvements in aviation safety may be traced back to improved technology and efforts taken to guarantee greater training, data collecting, and analysis.
Additionally, the industry’s excellent risk management and increased capacity to spot problems before they become a major issue have contributed to improved safety. As a result of improvements in manufacturing technology and quality control, aeronautical accident investigations and aircraft safety inspections have become more effective, contributing to one of the reasons for keeping air travel safer.
“No, we are not going to sit around and wait for something to happen.” Hilldrup noted, “Flying has become much safer in recent years.” There are preventative and precautionary measures in place, according to the accident investigator, that didn’t exist twenty-five years ago. People should be reassured by the effort put into aviation safety, he added. He noted that pilot training has improved and that advances in aviation technology cannot be ignored.
Aircraft hull losses will treble if safety measures aren’t improved, according to IATA’s projections. To achieve this aim, new and improved means of monitoring safety will be necessary. One example is a growing reliance on data analytics. Hence, to maintain the safety of aircraft, data is continuously being acquired and evaluated.
Despite increased air travel, aviation deaths have been declining over the years as a general trend in the sector. The number of fatalities in 2019 was lower than 300.
“I am confident that flying now is safer than it was 30 years ago,” said Richard Howell, director of Williamsport Regional Airport. The numbers of aviation accidents are down significantly, and Howell also emphasized the technological advances in air travel during the past few decades.
The aviation sector keeps innovating, notably with the introduction of composite materials and the increased use of digital technology and electronics. Safer cockpit instrument displays and fly-by-wire systems are only two examples of modern technology that have improved safety.
Today’s Safety Scenario Requires More
Furthermore, since the outbreak of the pandemic, there has been a greater emphasis on safety. Even the tiniest aspects of daily hygiene have been identified as major disasters in recent years, not only aircraft catastrophes. The pandemic taught us this valuable lesson.
The aviation sector has now implemented a variety of modalities and types of hygiene safety procedures. Each flight includes everything from extensive sanitization to single-use yet environmentally friendly products, with officials exclusively committed to monitoring this.
Air travel – Safer Than Others
Other than a few sad occurrences, as a means of transportation, flying is often touted as the safest, and this is at least true in terms of fatalities per mile travelled. Per billion miles of air travel, according to the Civil Aviation Authority, there are 0.003 fatalities per billion kilometres, compared to 0.27 for train travel and 2.57 for automobile travel.
Statistically, riding a bicycle or even getting struck by lightning has a higher risk of death. There are 29 million to one odds of dying in a plane disaster in the United States or Europe.
Apart from these, aircraft design would have to undergo more radical changes in the future, especially if fuel costs continue to rise. Besides novel propulsion systems, such as hybrid, electric or solar-powered planes, radical new airframe designs and new methods, such as assisted take-offs or unpowered landings, might result from research and development effort.