January 27th, 2012|
January 27, 2012
In the past five years, one in 49 million commercial flights has crashed, a 93 percent decline from 1994-1998, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. It’s been a decade since passengers have died in the crash of an airliner carrying more than 100 people.
It’s a dramatic turnaround. From July 1994 to January 1997, an airliner crashed at least once every three months, killing a total of 805 people. “It was overwhelming,” says a former vice-president for flight operations at Continental Airlines. “They were falling out of the sky.”
After TWA Flight 800 exploded over the Atlantic Ocean in July 1996, killing 230 people, the federal government intervened, but not with sweeping laws or regulations. Instead, a series of seemingly mundane, incremental changes, many recommended by the industry itself and put in place at little cost, have gradually made skies safer.
In 1997, President Bill Clinton created a commission that called on the federal government and the airline industry to reduce the accident rate by 80 percent over 10 years. Groups used to working against each other—the Federal Aviation Administration, commercial airlines, manufacturers, and labor unions—formed the Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST) to analyze accident data and suggest improvements.
CAST has made 185 recommendations since it first met in 1998 and continues to debate improvements.