Author Archives: airsafe

Commercial airplanes are safer than private aircraft

Airplane WaitingSome very fortunate people have the luxury of having to decide whether to use a commercial airline or private aircraft when they want to travel. Using a private plane may offer a number of advantages, but it has proven to be less safe. According to a report that looked at government aviation records and statistics from the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB), the accident rates for private flights has risen over 19 percent in the last ten years. The rate of fatalities for private flights has increased by approximately 24 percent during the same time. When two crew members passed away in a commercial plane accident in 2013, it was the first deaths on a commercial carrier during the previous three years. Hundreds of individuals pass away each year as a result of private plane accidents. Fatalities from commercial aviation are becoming very rare.

Regulations
There are a number of different tiers in U.S. law that carefully regulates all aspects of commercial aviation. Most people don’t realize there is very little if any oversight of private aircraft. The main problem with private aircraft laws is many people who operate private aircraft don’t pay attention to them. There is no mechanism in place to make certain there is compliance with private aircraft laws. Representatives from the NTSB have stated that more regulations are not the answer to increasing the safety of private planes.

Private Plane Crashes
According to statistics provided by the NTSB, the major cause of private plane crashes are pilot error. In many cases, something happens, and the pilot loses control of the private plane. The pilot does not have the skill or training to regain control and avoid crashing the plane. Private aircraft pilots may not know how to handle the aircraft when it stalls. The pilot of a small plane may not be qualified to fly by only using the plane’s instruments. The plane can fly into clouds or a low-visibility situation, and the pilot ends up not being able to see where the plane is going. Commercial aircraft are designed with a number of required safety features and they are much larger than private planes. Studies of aviation records show that sitting in the rear of the plane is the safest spot in the event of a crash.¬† They have co-pilots, navigation backup systems as well as extra engines and more. Once a private pilot completes their training, they are only required to pass a minimal proficiency check once every two years.

FAA Policies
Many people in the world of aviation feel the current FAA policies regarding private aircraft are not working. Years ago, the FAA designed a plan to decrease the rate of accidents in private aviation. The goal was a reduction of ten percent by 2018. The rate of private aircraft accidents has continued to remain steady. There are over 1,450 such aviation accidents each year that cause more than 449 fatalities. Some in the aviation industry believe all private pilots should be required to have liability insurance. This would require them to have better training to get the insurance. At this time, there are no federal requirements for private plane pilots to have insurance that covers injuries to passengers or those on the ground impacted by an accident. Too often people affected by a private plane crash discover the pilot did not have insurance.

Safest seat in a commercial airplane

Airplane SeatFlying can be stressful, and in case of an emergency you need to be able to react quickly and be in the right spot in case of an impact. While some people claim that there is no safe place to sit on an airplane, research says otherwise. This information from the FAA in these studies were concluded by the FAA by examining airplane crashes where at least one person survived. Below are the three best places to be on an airplane in case of an airplane crash.

1. The back of the plane.

According to a study that analyzed public aviation records from multiple commercial crashes throughout the years, passengers in the back of the plane are 40% less likely to die than passengers that chose the front seats. If you’re taking a trip, try to choose a seat that is behind the airplane wing to improve your odds at survival. If you can’t get a seat in the rear of the plane, try to get to the back if there’s an emergency and buckle up for safety.

2. Emergency exit seats

In case of an emergency, you want to be the first ones who are off of the plane. By nabbing yourself a seat near one of the emergency exits, you’re ensuring that you will be first in line for a safe exit. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to work the emergency exits. Your flight attendant will go over that with you before the plane starts and if an emergency is immediate, so make sure you pay attention.

3. Near the aisle.

Window seats provide beautiful views, but the advantage that window seats hold over them is that you can get out quickly in case of an emergency. In an emergency, you want to be able to react quickly instead of having to wait for the people in front of you to react. Your survival depends on your ability to move fast. When you are in the aisle seat, get ready to move to the back of the plane quickly, or to the emergency exit if appropriate. Listen to the flight attendants to direct you where to go if you’re unsure. They know the best place to be, and were trained to react in the best ways.

Research shows that you have a 1 in 1.2 million chance of being involved in an airplane crash, yet it’s still a huge concern for many people who board planes every year since we focus on the things that go wrong on airplanes instead of all of the flights that are successful. Airplane crashes are rare, but you can have a better peace of mind by sitting in these three areas of the plane.

Top 4 safest commercial airlines in the world

EvaluationCommercial airlines have experienced some strange trends when it comes to safety in the past few years. According to available data, there were 21 fatal accidents with 986 fatalities in 2014, higher than the average of the previous decade of flight. But while the number of fatal accidents was up, the number of crashes was way down. There were just 111 airplane crashes in 2014, the lowest total since 1927. Of course, all the statistics show that commercial airlines are still far safer than private aircraft.

While airlines have improved in their avoidance of crashes, there are still some that are doing a better job than others. Taking into account public airline safety records, and safety statistics provided by the Federal Aviation Administration, here’s a look at the top four safest airlines in the world:

#4: Emirates Airline

One of the safest carriers in the world, Emirates has continually held a spot near the top of its class in airline safety. Boasting a fatality free record over the past decade-plus, Emirates is one of the best choices for those wary of flight safety. It has a pristine safety record and compliance with all major government airline regulations. Certainly a viable choice if you are looking for the assurance of safety while in the air.

#3: Lufthansa

Another tremendous airline in terms of aviation safety; German’s longtime national airline, Lufthansa. This airline has been around for quite some time, established in the 1920’s, and has an impeccable safety record. A huge fleet of nearly 300 aircraft services over 200 destinations worldwide, with almost all of Europe covered by Lufthansa. This means if you’re looking for one of the safest airlines to get your to your destination across the European continent, Lufthansa would be a smart choice.

#2: British Airways

Coming in second on our list of the safest airlines in the world is British Airways. The safety record for BA is particularly impressive given the wide array of aircraft they have flown since the airline’s inception in 1974. This company flies a high volume of passengers every day, but has a fantastic safety record regardless. The airline has not experienced a fatality from one of its flights in 30 years, which is reason enough to put British Airways as the runner-up in our safest airlines in the world.

#1: Qantas

The undeniable king when it comes to airline safety is the Australian airline Qantas. Over its 94-year existence Qantas has a remarkable safety record in the air, having not experienced a fatal accident since¬†1954. The company’s track record for excellent safety lead to its cameo in the Hollywood blockbuster¬†Rain Man, where Dustin Hoffman’s character Raymond Babbitt quips that Qantas has never had an accident. This is true in a sense; Qantas is the only airline that has never had an accident in the Jet Age, making it the indisputable leader in airline safety.

Overview of publicly available aviation safety records

AirplaneThere is a rather daunting amount of information provided by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). I was researching crashes at my local library and the librarian was extremely helpful. I was researching aircraft that were manufactured in Arizona that were involved in crashes. She directed me to the FAA’s database. All the information they publish on Arizona aircraft involved in crashes is classified as public records and is available to anyone. She helped me navigate through the publicly available records and data for Arizona and I got the information I was looking for. I decided to write about some of the things I learned from the experience in the hopes that others could benefit from it.

The data is divided into seven large categories, with fourteen subcategories of all varieties, and not just of obvious safety information. Accident and incident reports are available, with both preliminary and final data. The preliminary data covers whatever has been reported over the last 10 days, and the report usually takes place two days after the occurrence. Because the data is so new, it is often subject to change, and those changes are marked with an asterisk. Guidelines for how to discover further information on a specific incident is also detailed. The final data reports go all the way back to 1996, with older reports continually added. Currently there are 476 entries.

On the page for Airline On-Time Statistics and Delay Causes, a graph shows the national on-time performance statistics, with options above to change the parameters to specific carriers, airports, and time. According to the national graph, over 78% of flights were on schedule, and the highest reason for delay was the fault of the aircraft arriving late (6.86%), with the next highest being the air carrier’s fault. The lowest percentage of delays were security related, at 0.03%.

There is also a list of unruly passenger statistics. According to one chart, there were 141 incidents in 2014, and 8 as of April 7th of this year. (If a passenger commits a security violation, that statistic goes on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) list.) The page also reminds everyone that one incident can lead to multiple violations, and since the FAA’s Re-authorization Bill of April 16, 2000, passengers can be charged up to $25,000 for each violation.

The FAA does more than just provide statistics on airplanes and passengers. One category dedicated to all commercial space data (as in outer space). It includes the most recent licensed launches, permitted launches, licensed reentries, and more. According to one chart, the earliest launch they have on record was in March of 1989. Aviation forecasts are on another page, divided by areas and categories, such as regular aerospace forecasts, long-range aerospace forecasts, and terminal area forecasts. There is also information on policy, international affairs and environment issues and officials. Funding and grant data is available through another section, including the Airport Improvement Program, which provides grants to public and some private owners for the purpose of planning and developing public-use airports (those that are in the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS)).

The FAA has everything you could possibly want to know about anything to do with aviation, but you might need some help navigating through all the information. Check them out for any inquiries you may have.

Can a passenger really hack into Boeing 737 flight controls?

LaptopIn May 2015, an Internet security professional was questioned by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) after he was allegedly able to hack into the flight control system of a commercial aircraft. Chris Roberts, a citizen of the United States, works for One World Labs, a tech company that specializes in detecting security flaws in computer network systems. Mr. Roberts made claims about his ability to hack his way into an in-flight control system that allowed him to make a Boeing 737 climb and somehow move horizontally.

The claims made by Mr. Roberts came to light on a search warrant application issued by the FBI. At one point, Mr. Roberts was banned from boarding commercial aircraft after he posted Twitter updates that indicated his purported ability to hack into flight control systems.

While being interviewed by the FBI, Mr. Roberts claimed that he was able to access the engine control system of a Boeing 737 operated by United Airlines in mid-flight. Mr. Roberts stated that he connected a laptop using network cable connectors to plug into a network module that gave him direct access to the in-flight entertainment (IFE) system. In many commercial aircraft these days, the IFE can be operated by means of a touch screen located behind each seat; in some cases, the control module of the IFE is a box located under the seats. Mr. Roberts claims to have physically connected a portable computer to one of these boxes.

It is interesting to note that a popular feature in many modern IFE systems is that they receive data and communications used by the flight crew in the cockpit; that is how route maps, speed, temperature and other information is displayed. Mr. Roberts claimed to have found that the flight control system was connected to the IFE, and thus he contended that he was able to alter the flight plan.

Boeing officials have already made public statements that indicate the IFE and flight control systems of commercial aircraft are isolated. Moreover, Mr. Roberts has also mentioned that he has connected a laptop to the IFE control module on at least a dozen occasions since 2011, which is something that aircraft industry analysts believe is highly improbable. In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Mr. Roberts’ fellow passengers would have certainly alerted the flight crew had they seen him trying to access the IFE box under the seat for the purpose of connecting his laptop computer.

Mr. Roberts was banned from commercial flights due to his comments on Twitter. It’s probably a good idea to ban anyone that might be mentally unstable from flying. Mr. Roberts was able to get legal assistance from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and attorneys from that organization have counseled him during periods of interrogation by FBI agents. Looks like he might need a different kind of counseling as well.