Aviation Accidents: Statistics & Causes

plane.jpgSome people will tell you that luck comes in threes; stub your toe, trip over your kid’s skateboard, and you best be on high alert. While we can’t vouch for that particular sentiment, it does seem like there have been a number of serious airplane accidents in the recent past, many of which we’ve discussed in these pages. This prompts our San Francisco airplane accident attorney to take a look at the numbers.

Pilot Locked Out of Cockpit on Delta Flight
Before getting to the stats, there’s one particular incident that made headlines not for the outcome but for the seeming absurdity of its situation. On Thursday, as Good Morning America reported, a Delta Air Lines plane travelling from Minneapolis to Las Vegas made an emergency landing after the pilot became locked out of the MD-90’s cockpit. Apparently, the pilot had left the cockpit to use the restroom but the door malfunction when he tried to return to the helm. A piece of string was later deemed the culprit. Passengers say the pilot calmly explained the situation to all onboard. The First Officer successfully landed the plane to a round of applause. Not one of the 168 people on board suffered injury. The successful resolution turned what could have been a tragedy into an amusing anecdote. The crew did alert the tower and there were ground crews ready to help had a problem occurred.

Aviation Accident Statistics Tell Mixed Story
As a CNN report notes, whether 2014 was a year of aviation safety improvements or one involving large declines depends on how you ask the question. If you focus on number of crashes, 2014 was a banner year for safety. CNN cites information from the Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives for the fact that 2014 saw 111 crashes, the lowest number in 80 years and the safest year yet when cockpit.jpg you consider the huge increase in air traffic since the last time the world saw crash numbers that low. However, if you focus on the number of aviation deaths, the picture is much grimmer. In part because of several large air disasters, 1,320 died in aviation disasters in 2014 which is the highest number since 2005 and marks a reversal in a previously steady improvement in this crucial measure of air safety. To give context, 2013 saw 265 aviation deaths.

Importantly, the BAAA numbers only include civil air travel where the plane is a model intended to carry 14 or more passengers. A New York Times opinion piece from July 2014 notes that in 2011 a whopping 94% of fatal air events involved general aviation, a category that includes small planes piloted by amateurs and small professional flights such as corporate jets. General aviation, which also includes things like balloons and gliders, has about seven accidents per 100,000 flight hours while commercial airlines had an accident rate of 0.16 accidents per 100,000 flight hours. A Washington Post article reports 440 deaths in the general aviation category (more accidents, fewer people involved per incident) for 2012 and a preliminary total of 387 for 2013.

Pilot Error and Mechanical Failure Combine to Account for Over Three-Quarters of Air Accidents
Plane Crash Info is a respected website that tracks and compiles aviation accident information. According to their Statistics page, 57% of fatal aviation accidents in the first decade of the 21st century were due to pilot error. Mechanical failure accounted for the next largest share of accidents, 22% of the total. Another chart shows that, in total, more than half of aviation accidents (56%) occur during takeoff or landing, despite the fact that planes spend more than half (57%) of their travel time in cruising mode.

Aviation Injury & Wrongful Death Attorney Helps Injured and Grieving Recover Compensation
Plane crashes remain relatively rare, but as last year’s numbers demonstrate, they can be terribly tragic. Large plane crashes can claim hundreds of lives in an instant. Small plane crashes receive less press but are much more common. Regardless of the type of plane involved, when planes crash because of human error our San Francisco aviation accident attorney is ready to help the victims. Attorney Brod represents people injured in aviation incidents and the families of those killed in air tragedies. While no one can reverse the past, our team can help you recover the monetary compensation you need and deserve. Call our 24/7 hotline to arrange a free consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:
Looking at Airline Liability and Victim’s Rights in the Wake of the Malaysian Air Tragedy
Aviation Safety: An Update on Asiana Flight 214

(Image of plane by Mark Harkin; Image of cockpit by Kiko Alario Salom)