Improvement in aircraft safety
With so much talk about unsafe products and the failure of government regulators, we need to remind ourselves about some of the product safety accomplishments we have achieved. In 1996, after two air crashes that killed 375 people, a White House Commission recommended that the airline industry and regulators make changes that would reduce the number of fatalities by eighty percent over the next ten years. According to the New York Times, the industry and government regulators had nearly achieved that goal by October of 2007, through a sustained safety effort and a touch of luck.
While there have been seven crashes elsewhere in the world this year, there had been no fatal airliner crash involving a scheduled U.S. flight during 2007. The drop in the number of fatalities was about 65 percent since the Commission made its report public. Unquestionably, this represents some degree of luck, but it also represents an earnest effort to improve aircraft, equipment and other subtle problems identified by investigators. Much of the improvement is attributable to the pooling and closer analysis of data collected from various sources and collated. Some of this data was collected from uneventful flights--which represented a new area of investigation for the FAA.
The only blemish on this record of increased safety is the increase, over the past decade, of "proximity" events, as crowded flight paths cause havoc for over-worked air controllers in particular geographic locations.