January 16, 2009 / 12:00 AM / 9 years ago

Despite NY crash, U.S. air travel getting safer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Despite the crash on Thursday of a US Airways Group jetliner in New York's Hudson River, airline travel in the United States is safe and has been getting safer, aviation officials and experts said.

The accident was the second serious one involving a major airline in the past month but also the second in which no one was killed. More than 150 passengers and crew escaped the US Airways A320 that plunged into the river after takeoff from nearby LaGuardia airport, but it floated long enough to allow passengers to escape.

* In December, 112 people got out of a Continental Airlines plane that ran off a runway and caught fire in Denver.

* The last fatal U.S. crash was in August 2006 when a Comair jet crashed and burned in a Kentucky pasture, killing all 50 people aboard. Investigators said the pilots used an unlighted runway.

* Virtually all aviation fatalities involve small private planes, statistics show.

* Aviation experts say that luck has something to do with increased survival rates but that crew training, aircraft design, cockpit advances and safety precautions in combination can prevent deaths.

* Jim Hall, the former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), said aviation authorities and airlines have learned painful but important lessons from past crashes about technology, mechanical problems, engines and fuel-fed fires, weather, crew behavior and training.

* U.S. airlines fly more than 600 million people each year. While many safety incidents are minor and do not make headlines, investigators and safety advocates have grown more concerned in recent years about the potential for runway collisions due to increased congestion.

* U.S. safety investigators expressed concern last month about some airlines discontinuing a safety program that encouraged pilots, mechanics and dispatchers to voluntarily report safety incidents. The Federal Aviation came under fire last year for lax safety inspection procedures at several airlines.

Reporting by John Crawley; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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