Despite Costa Rica Crash, Air Travel Ranks Safer Than Ever: Here’s Why
A small plane crashed in Costa Rica on New Year’s Eve, killing all aboard. According to The New York Times, the Cessna 208B Caravan carried two American families and a tour guide from Punta Islita to San José. The accident ranked as the deadliest in Costa Rica since 1990. While both the United States and Costa Rica mourn the dead, air travel in general remains very safe.
1. The crash marks the second of its kind in 4 months
This small plane crash comes as the second crash in four months involving Nature Air, the “eco-conscious” carrier that operated the small plane. An earlier crash on Sept. 5, 2017 killed a Costa Rican woman and an American man. Four other people survived and the cause remains under investigation.
Enio Cubillo Araya, the director general of Costa Rica’s civil aviation agency, told The New York Times the two crashes appeared as isolated episodes. “The country and the aviation industry are in mourning,” he said. “The government of Costa Rica stands in solidarity with the relatives of those who lost their loved ones during this holiday.”
Next: Authorities do not yet know how the crash will affect tourism.
2. The tiny nation has enjoyed a tourism spike
In recent years, the tourism boom in Costa Rica has seen tourists flocking to the peaceful, biodiverse country. The Central American nation of 4.8 million received a record nearly 3 million visitors in 2016.
Costa Rica President Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera expressed his condolences on Twitter, CNN reported. “The government vows to do everything necessary to help the victims’ family members in whatever they need in this difficult moment and sends them the solidarity of all the Costa Rican people,” Solis said. The U.S. State Department also continues to monitor the situation.
Next: Donald Trump’s tweet is true — but not totally pertinent.
3. Trump touts the safety of air travel in 2016
On Jan. 2, President Donald Trump took credit for air travel safety. The Hill writes that his comment came in response to a new study that showed 2017 was the safest year on record for commercial aviation. Airlines recorded zero deaths on commercial passenger jets worldwide, according to a report published by the Aviation Safety Network.
Overall, 44 people in total died on 10 fatal commercial passenger and cargo plane crashes. Those crashes involved small propeller planes and cargo aircraft. While Trump is correct that air travel did see 2016 pass without a fatality on commercial jets, he did not elaborate on what exactly he did to improve it.
Next: He also left out a crucial detail.
4. Commercial air travel has not seen a fatality in almost a decade
Forbes reports that, for the seventh year in a row, no United States-certified airline operating anywhere in the world saw a fatality. The last time anyone died on a U.S.-certificated scheduled airline was Feb. 12, 2009, when Colgan Air Flight 3407, operating as a Continental Connection flight between Continental’s hub at Newark, New Jersey, and Buffalo, New York, went into an aerodynamic stall short of the runway. It crashed into a house in Clarence Center, New York. All 49 people onboard, as well as one person on the ground, died in the crash.
Next: Air travel accidents do happen, however.
5. That does not mean issues do not occur
Nearly 3.7 billion people flew in 2016, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization. That’s more than triple the number that flew 25 years ago. CNN Money reports that better technology, training, and global regulations have contributed to a decline in incidents since 1992.
That said, Forbes notes that some serious accidents do happen, especially during landing and takeoff. On Oct. 28, American Airlines Flight 383 accelerated down the runway at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport toward Miami. As it did so, something broke inside the plane’s right under-wing engine. The engine exploded into flames, but pilots did bring the plane to a safe stop. The fire totaled the plane, but all 170 people aboard escaped with their lives and only 20 injuries resulted.
Next: Even those issues make up a tiny fraction of air travel.
6. Most passengers will never experience an emergency in flight
In 2015, U.S. airlines flew 7.6 billion miles on planes with 10 or more seats. They carried a zero fatality rate, but the accident rate even came in at just 0.155 per 100,000 aircraft flight hours. In 1960, when air travel really began to take off, U.S.-certificated air carriers saw 7.9 accidents per 100 million aircraft miles flown. The fatality rate came in at 44.159 per 100 million aircraft miles. Those rates dropped to 0.732 accidents and 0.119 fatalities per 100 million aircraft miles in 1997. In fact, the sole year since 2000 that saw the fatal rate rise above 1/100 million was 2001. That, of course, came after four jets enacted the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Next: Overall, Americans should feel safe in the skies, even if they aren’t exactly comfortable.
7. Air travel ranks high in safety, not so much in comfort
As Mashable points out, 2017 did see airlines inconvenience passengers repeatedly. An 11-hour blackout at Atlanta’s international airport in December grounded more than 1,500 flights and stranded thousands. The Federal Aviation Administration still needs to address shrinking airplane seat sizes. And in April, United Airlines dragged a passenger off an overbooked flight after he refused to leave the seat he had paid for. Finally, due to a scheduling system glitch, American Airlines accidentally allowed all of its pilots to take vacation during the holidays. Major issues persist, but at least we can all fly in relative safety. That’s a start.
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