I don’t like to dwell on these end-of-year facts and figures too often, but sometimes I think it’s worth pausing to take a look. For example, let’s take a look at airline safety in 2009. It was actually a very safe year. There were 30 fatal “airliner” accidents that ended with 758 people being killed (1 on the ground). That sounds like a lot, right? We’ll break it down further after this slideshow from Aviation Safety Network, which highlights the accidents of the year.
So, of those 30 accidents (which may seem like a huge number), only 11 involved passenger flights. And of those, many were in the usual places you would expect – the ones without a strong safety leadership culture. There was one in Rwanda, one in Papua New Guinea, and one in Indonesia. I believe having at least one accident is required in Indonesia every year. There was an old TU-154 that crashed in Iran and a little Embraer 110 that went down in the Amazon. There was also that Yemenia A310 that crashed in the Indian Ocean off Africa.
Some accidents involved runway overruns and were mostly survivable. The Turkish 737 that landed hard in Amsterdam is one example, as was the Bangkok Airways ATR-72 and the Mashad IL-62. But that brings us to the big two.
The biggest, of course, was the Air France flight that plunged into the Atlantic off the coast of Brazil. We still don’t know what caused that one, and we may very well never know.
The other? The Colgan Air (Continental Connection) Dash-8 that went down in Buffalo. That, of course, was caused by a combination of pilot error, fatigue, and bad weather.
So when it comes right down to it, 2009 was a very safe year. You were much safer flying than, well, eating airline food, especially if it was prepared by LSG SkyChefs in Denver. (That’s a whole different, disgusting story.)