EgyptAir MS804: Just how safe is flying?

By Ashley Kirk

Despite air accidents such as EgyptAir flight MS804 dominating the headlines when they occur, flying by plane is still one of the safest ways to travel.

More than 3.5 billion people flew safely on 37.6 million flights in 2015, according to the International Air Transport Association.

In the same year, there were 122 plane crashes worldwide according to B3A. These resulted in 898 people losing their lives - a small proportion of the total number of air passengers.

Indeed, despite the crashes of Germanwings A320 in March and the bombing of Metrojet A321 in October, 2015 was still the safest year in aviation history.

Both aircraft crashes and fatalities peaked, unsurprisingly, during World War Two. After the conflict ended, there were roughly 300 aircraft crashes a year until 1980, resulting in an average of 2,000 deaths per year.

After the 1970s, there has been a steady decline in air crashes as technological and safety procedures improved.

Commercial airline travel didn't become popular until mid-50s, and safety drives introduced in the 1970s reduced the risk for people going on holiday. In 1973, for example, the FAA made all airlines start screening passengers and their carry-on baggage.

There has since been a gradual decline in airline accidents and fatalities - despite more of us travelling by air.

Since 2000, there has been an average of 164 aircraft crashes per year, resulting in an average of 1,061 people losing their lives.

According to B3A, the worst five years for aircraft fatalities were 1945, 1944, 1943, 1972 and 1985. It classes an accident as an event involving an aircraft - carrying at least six people, crew included - that was damaged enough so that it was removed from service.

The worst ever air crash in history was a ground collision in Tenerife on 27 March 1977. The collision took place between two B747 of Pan Am and KLM on a foggy runway, leaving 583 people dead.

However, thanks to modern technologies and safety procedures, air travel is now incredibly safe, with modern airliners such as Qantas being praised for their "extraordinary fatality-free record in the jet era".

As the CAA says: there is an average of one fatality for every 287 million passengers carried by UK operators.

Airbus A320 workhorse: 6,700 globally, 13 fatal crashes

Air New Zealand has 28 Airbus A320s in its fleet. Photo / NZME
Air New Zealand has 28 Airbus A320s in its fleet. Photo / NZME

EgyptAir Flight MS804, which disappeared yesterday, was operating an Airbus Group NV A320 single-aisle jet. Here are some basics about the plane type that has won more around 12,500 orders and is a workhorse on short- and medium-haul routes:

• A320, the core of the planemaker's best-selling series, started operating in 1988

• Thirteen fatal crashes since beginning of the program

• Most recent A320 crash was Russian airliner Metrojet, an A321, brought down by suspected Islamic State bomb over Egypt's Sinai; earlier two crashes were Germanwings accident attributed to pilot suicide in March 2015 and AirAsia Bhd.'s Flight 8501 went down in Java Sea on Dec. 28

Global fleet: About 6,700 in A320 series. Competes with Boeing Co. 737

Five variants flying commercially: A320, carrying 150 passengers, is most common. A319 carries 124, and little-ordered A318 seats 107. A321 carries 185 in typical configuration. Updated A320neo model with new engines began flying from January

Engines: Two for the A320 series, either CFM 56 model built by CFM International, a joint venture between General Electric Co. and Safran SA; or V2500 from International Aero Engines, a joint venture that includes United Technologies Corp.'s Pratt & Whitney. A320Neo currently flying only with Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan engines; A320Neos with Leap engines by CFM set to enter service later this year

Built: Main assembly lines are in Toulouse, France, and Hamburg, Germany, with parts mainly produced in France, Germany, Spain and the U.K. Final assembly line in Tianjin, China, produces four planes a month for Chinese market while U.S. line in Mobile, Ala., just began producing A320Neos.

Most remembered by public: US Airways A320 flown by Captain Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger made emergency landing on Hudson River in New York in January 2009 after multiple bird strikes knocked out both engines.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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