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Planes Safer than Trains and Cars, But Safety Risks Still Remain

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In 2009, there were 90 airplane accidents  around the world while there were 5.8 million car crashes and 9,789 train wrecks. On the surface, this would indicate airplanes are dramatically safer than cars and trains, which is a legitimate observation.

However, the drastic disparity in number of total airplanes in the sky compared to the millions on cars on the road or hundreds of trains on the track can help explain these numbers. In addition, the fact that most car crashes are single-car accidents involving one or two people while an airplane crash involves dozens of people. Regardless, airplane companies shouldnt tout their low accident numbers compared to cars and trains. They should remain focused on reducing their accident rates even further.

airline, airplane, plane, accident, crash, wreck, injuryUSA Today analyzed data from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and found maintenance was "a cause, factor or finding" in 18 airplane crashes since the beginning of January 2000 and that roughly 65,000 flights took off when they shouldn't have. I wrote about these distressing statistics and the need for dramatic reform in oversight on how repairs are conducted on commercial airplanes. 

As a licensed pilot, I fully appreciate the steps that airplane companies have taken to improve safety standards, but as indicated above, much more can be done. In addition to improving regulations on plane repairs, the issue of pilot fatigue needs to be addressed. Many airline employees are underpaid and overworked. Since 1990, the National Transportation Safety Board has been recommending reforms on how many hours pilots and co-pilots can be scheduled to work be updated to reflect modern research and take into account early starting times and frequent takeoffs and landings, according to CBSNews.com. 

If both of these issues repair oversight and pilot fatigue reform are not addressed, we could potentially see a dramatic increase in airplane accidents. We cant let this happen and it is incumbent upon the FAA and commercial airplane companies to ensure the trend towards less airplane crashes continues for the foreseeable future.

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