The airline industry has something to brag about: 2017 was a record year in safety. There was not a single death from a commercial passenger jet crash last year. Even into early 2018 there were no reports of commercial jet accidents (though the Aviation Safety Network reports that 10 fatal airliner accidents worldwide claimed 44 deaths onboard and 35 deaths on the ground in 2017). While this is welcomed news for those who use commercial passenger planes, aviation experts believe this is an extension of a trend that began some time ago with various advancements in airline safety.
Advancements in Technology Since the 1990’s
According to experts, the 1990’s was a significant decade for improvements in airline technology. A spokesman for the Aviation Safety Network claims that two decades of gathering information and knowledge from previous airline catastrophes has helped build to this moment. He also credits advancements in automation with improving safety overall. The former Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Transportation points to striking improvements that were made in airline safety at this time including collision avoidance methods, advanced ground warning systems and enhanced air traffic control. One of the most notable developments is upgraded air traffic control to monitor planes with satellite-based GPS systems. This system provides more accurate monitoring than ground-based radar technology.
Improvements in Airports and Management Systems
Aircraft technology is not the the only area of progress in the airline industry. At airports, pavement has been re-engineered so that it can stop a plane that veers off the runaway. Airlines are also collaborating with the FAA to better identify risky situations before an incident occurs. For example, a pilot can report confusing signals or lack of signage at a destination so these issues can be rectified immediately.
Anonymous Reporting Creates Accountability
Pilots, air traffic controllers and others involved in air travel can now confidentially report incidents that are then analyzed and published in a newsletter along with the outcomes of those reports. The aviation community has access to these reports which can be valuable sources of information for the industry as a whole. The Aviation Safety Reporting System can take action based on the information it receives from this database to correct deficiencies and handle misconduct.
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