Is Flying Safe? A Torrent of Flight Problems in Past Few Months Raise Travellers Concern- Republic World

Is Flying Safe? A Torrent of Flight Problems in Past Few Months Raise Travellers Concern- Republic World

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Although the last fatal accident involving a U.S. airliner was about 15 years ago and no major aviation mishaps have occurred since, a series of incidents over the past 15 months have caught the attention of travelers and airline providers. air services. In the past 3 months, a spate of flight problems involving falling tires and aircraft panels made headlines and forced travelers to rethink twice: is it safe to fly?

It was a time when the aviation sector, unlike in recent times, rarely witnessed things like broken windshields and minor engine problems. However, a change in the situation was noted in January, when a panel covering the space reserved for an unused emergency door blew up an Alaska Airlines plane 16,000 feet above Oregon.

Although the flight's pilots landed the Boeing 737 Max safely, media coverage in the United States of the flight quickly overshadowed a deadly crash on the Tokyo runway just three days earlier.

Air safety concerns, especially with Boeing aircraft

The incident raised concerns about air safety, especially with Boeing planes, and one narrative cites whether flying has become dangerous.

Experts, however, contradict the narrative that denies flight problems to the simplest extent. It was argued that there were 9.6 million flights last year and that the last fatal accident involving a US airliner occurred in February 2009, an unprecedented streak of safety.

The number of times pilots issued an emergency call increased

However, the lack of fatal accidents does not fully reflect the state of safety and in the past 15 months, a series of close calls have caught the attention of regulators and travelers.

Another measure is the number of times pilots transmit an emergency call to air traffic controllers. Flightradar24, a popular tracking site, just compiled the numbers. Data from the site shows that these types of calls have increased since mid-January, but remain below levels seen for much of 2023.

Emergency calls are also an imperfect indicator: The plane may not have been in immediate danger, and sometimes planes in trouble never alert controllers.

Flying is safer than driving, says Data

The National Safety Council estimates that Americans have a 1 in 93 chance of dying in a car accident, while deaths on airplanes are too rare to calculate the odds. Figures from the U.S. Department of Transportation tell a similar story.

“This is the safest form of transportation ever created, while around 737 people die on the country's roads every day,” said Richard Aboulafia, a veteran aerospace analyst and consultant. The safety council estimates that more than 44,000 people died in car accidents in the United States in 2023.

The safety margin is reduced

A panel of experts reported in November that a shortage of air traffic controllers, outdated aircraft tracking technology and other problems presented a growing threat to safety in the skies.

“The ongoing erosion of the margin of safety in (the national airspace system) caused by the confluence of these challenges is making the current level of safety unsustainable,” the group said in a 52-page report.

What is happening at Boeing?

Many, but not all, of the recent incidents have involved Boeing aircraft.

Boeing is a $78 billion company, a leading U.S. exporter and an iconic, centuries-old name in aircraft manufacturing. It is half of the duopoly, along with the European Airbus, that dominates the production of large passenger aircraft.

However, the company's reputation was greatly damaged by the crashes of two 737 Max aircraft (one in Indonesia in 2018 and the other in Ethiopia the following year) that killed 346 people. Boeing has lost almost $24 billion over the past five years. It has struggled with manufacturing glitches that sometimes delayed deliveries of long-haul 737s and 787 Dreamliners.

Boeing was finally starting to get back on track until the Alaska Airlines Max explosion. Investigators have focused on bolts that help secure the door panel but were missing after repair work at the Boeing factory.

The FBI is notifying passengers of a criminal investigation. The Federal Aviation Administration is stepping up oversight of the company.

“What is happening with production at Boeing? There have been problems in the past. They don't seem to be resolving it,” FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said last month.

CEO David Calhoun says that regardless of the conclusions investigators reach about the Alaska Airlines explosion, “Boeing is responsible for what happened” on the Alaska plane. “We caused the problem and we understand it.”

Where do design and manufacturing fit?

The problems attributed to an aircraft manufacturer can vary greatly.

Some are design errors. On the original Boeing Max, the failure of a single sensor caused a flight control system to point the plane's nose downward with great force; that happened before the fatal Max crashes of 2018 and 2019. It is a maxim in aviation that the failure of a single part should never be enough to bring down a plane.

In other cases, such as the door stopper panel that flew off the Alaska Airlines plane, it appears a mistake was made at the factory.

“Anything that results in death is worse, but design is much more difficult to address because you have to locate the problem and fix it,” said Aboulafia, the aerospace analyst. “In the manufacturing process, the fix is ​​incredibly easy – don't do whatever caused the defect in the first place.

Manufacturing quality also appears to be an issue in other incidents.

Earlier this month, the FAA proposed ordering airlines to inspect the wire bundles around the spoilers on Max planes. The order was prompted by a report that chafing electrical wires due to faulty installation caused a passenger plane to spin 30 degrees in less than a second on a 2021 flight.

Even the little things matter. After a LATAM Airlines Boeing 787 flying from Australia to New Zealand this month plummeted (it recovered), Boeing reminded airlines to inspect the switches on the engines that move pilots' seats. Published reports said a flight attendant who accidentally pressed the switch likely caused the fall.

It's not all Boeing's fault

Investigations into some incidents point to probable maintenance failures, and many of the close calls are due to errors by pilots or air traffic controllers.

This week, investigators revealed that an American Airlines plane that overshot a runway in Texas had undergone brake replacement work four days earlier, and some brake hydraulic lines were not reconnected properly.

Earlier this month, a tire fell off a United Airlines Boeing 777 leaving San Francisco, and an American Airlines 777 made an emergency landing in Los Angeles with a flat tire.

A piece of aluminum cladding was discovered missing when a United Boeing 737 landed in Oregon last week. Unlike the new Alaska plane that suffered the panel explosion, the United plane was 26 years old. Maintenance depends on the airline.

When a FedEx cargo plane landed last year in Austin, Texas, flying near the top of a Southwest Airlines plane taking off, it turned out that an air traffic controller had cleared both planes to use the same runway.

Separating the serious from the routine

Aviation industry officials say the most concerning events involve problems with flight controls, engines and structural integrity.

Other things, like broken windshields and planes crashing into each other at the airport, rarely pose a safety threat. Warning lights can indicate a serious problem or a false alarm.

“We take every event seriously,” said former NTSB member John Goglia, citing that vigilance as a contributing factor to the current accident-free streak. “The challenge we have in aviation is trying to keep it there.”

(With contributions from AP)

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