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Report: 2012 was the safest year for aviation since 1945

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  February 12, 2013 10:49 AM

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According to a report in the New York Times, 2012 was the safest year in aviation since 1945, with only 23 deadly accidents and 475 fatalities, numbers reported by the Aviation Safety Network, an accident researcher.

In the last five years, the death risk for passengers in the United States has been one in 45 million flights, according to Arnold Barnett, a professor of statistics at M.I.T. In other words, flying has become so reliable that a traveler could fly every day for an average of 123,000 years before being in a fatal crash, he said.

Planes and their engines have become much more reliable, according to the report, a major reason in the number of fatalities plummeting, as has the advancement of warning technology, and a much more comprehensive approach to understanding safety measures.

“The lessons of accidents used to be written in blood, where you had to have an accident, and you had to kill people to change procedures, or policy, or training,” said Deborah Hersman, the chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board. “That’s not the case anymore. We have a much more proactive approach to safety.”

There has not been a major disaster for an American commercial airline since 2001, when an American Airlines bound for the Domincan Republic crashed after taking off from JFK Airport, killing all 260 people on board. The last fatal accident involving a commercial flight in the United States was Colgan Air Flight 3407, which crashed near Buffalo, killing 50 people in 2009.

The report was not all good news, however, shedding light on an increase in air traffic, which has led some regional airlines to hire younger, more inexperienced pilots with lower salaries.

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