Is There An Aircraft That Has Never Crashed?

  • Thread starter JaredJames
  • Start date
  • #26
russ_watters
Mentor
19,781
6,180
This one should help with the growth of air travel:
http://www.bts.gov/programs/airline_information/air_carrier_traffic_statistics/ [Broken]

It says: in 1954, there were 35 million "enplanements" and in 2007, there were 768 million, a 20-fold increase in that time. That tells you that if, for example, the number of "accidents" is the same as it was 50 years ago (and apparently, it was), then the safety rate is around 20x better today than 50 years ago.

So that helps a lot...

Note, you'll need to scrutinize the data a lot better than I have to ensure they are consistent, ie, you don't necessarily want to combine accidents in the US with flights worldwide.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #27
russ_watters
Mentor
19,781
6,180
Er - I need to put a caveat in to post 20: your question's wording doesn't mention rates, just the number of accidents. The number of accidents has not actually decreased much - the rate has.
 
  • #28
2,685
22
Again, Russ you truly know your stuff. I was looking at the 'number of flights' vs 'number of accidents' in order to see, although the number of flights increase, the accident rate delcined / remained constant as that would certainly provide an insight into air safety. I think it would be beneficial to look at rates as well though as this would give a much better insight.
 
  • #29
mgb_phys
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
7,774
13
The best records of planes that have flown for enough years/miles to be significant are probably the 777, only the engine failure at heathrow last year and the A330 which upto the crash last week had no accidents (excepting the test flight) - although they have both lost planes on the ground due to fueling fires/wars.

For rarer planes the statistics don't really work well, Concorde had no crashes for nearly 30years and then one accident put it into the ranks of the most dangerous - mainly because of the small number of overall flights.
The Boeing 737 has had more crashes than any other modern aircraft but remains statistically one of the safest because of the huge number of them flying.

The Quantas record is a little debatable. It is obviously a very safe airline and has the advantage of flying mostly long haul in very empty airspace, there have been a number of crashes of regional jets but they are owned by separate companies and not badged Quantas. So it get a bit legalistic - if say a United Airlines liveried regional jet crashes but it's actually operated by skywest - does this count as a United crash?
 
  • #30
Moonbear
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
11,490
52
Defining a "crash" is not so simple. I was in what was called a "plane crash" - a luggage truck hit the plane when it was parked at the gate, slightly damaging it. This prompted an official investigation.
:rofl: I'm pretty sure the OP means planes in the air that fall out of the air before the pilot intended to actually land them, thereby hitting the land with something other than landing gear.

I do think this is an interesting question. Afterall, if there were a model of plane that truly had a perfect record in this regard, it might be worth considering if they do something differently that is contributing to this good safety record. When planes crash, a lot of work is done to look at what went wrong to try to prevent future disasters, but it's also a pretty valid approach to look at those that have been doing things right and to borrow the safety features from those as well.
 
  • #31
2,685
22
:rofl: I'm pretty sure the OP means planes in the air that fall out of the air before the pilot intended to actually land them, thereby hitting the land with something other than landing gear.
Moonbear, thank you. I honestly couldnt find the right way to put that, I was going to go for something like "crashes between take off and landing" to narrow it down but I think you hit the nail on the head, perfectly.

I do think this is an interesting question. Afterall, if there were a model of plane that truly had a perfect record in this regard, it might be worth considering if they do something differently that is contributing to this good safety record. When planes crash, a lot of work is done to look at what went wrong to try to prevent future disasters, but it's also a pretty valid approach to look at those that have been doing things right and to borrow the safety features from those as well.
As part of my report, I was going to add a bit of depth by looking at other aspects of flight safety, not just crashes. As Russ points out, you can only truly study an aircraft that has been mass produced and has flown enough hours/miles to gather adequte flight data on it. So I decided to ask if anyone knew of an aircraft with a 'perfect' safety record. One which I could use to compare with another, perhaps one with a less than 'perfect' safety record and compare the features of each. Particularly looking at what improvements have been technologically inspired. This would then allow me to add that extra 'depth' instead of simply comparing number of crashes now to number of crashes fifty years back etc.
 
  • #32
Pengwuino
Gold Member
4,989
15
Here it says that if you measure per trip, cars are 3x safer than airplanes, per hour, planes are 4x safer, and per mile (or km), planes are 60x safer.
I've heard people argue the cars being safer based on the number of trips. I've always felt it's such a bad argument considering you don't have the alternative to take an airplane down to the corner market and if people are like me (haha!), most their trips never hit a real main street with a lot of people going fast.

The idea of planes bieng 60x safer per mile is kinda scary though don't you think? If i wanted to take a cross-country trip, I'm 60x more likely to die if I drive???
 
  • #33
Moonbear
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
11,490
52
Not really related to your question, but interesting nonetheless....

Here it says that if you measure per trip, cars are 3x safer than airplanes, per hour, planes are 4x safer, and per mile (or km), planes are 60x safer.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_safety#Statistics
I wonder at what point the amount of air traffic will start to reduce the safety of air travel closer to motor vehicles? I expect that the number of other vehicles on the road in close proximity to your vehicle has a lot to do with chances of collision. Of course, it's also a bit harder to get a pilot's license and people watch them a lot more carefully to make sure they aren't doing stupid things like drinking before flying and gabbing on the cell phone and putting on makeup while lighting a cigarette and eating something from some fast food joint when they're supposed to be steering.
 
  • #34
Pengwuino
Gold Member
4,989
15
I wonder at what point the amount of air traffic will start to reduce the safety of air travel closer to motor vehicles? I expect that the number of other vehicles on the road in close proximity to your vehicle has a lot to do with chances of collision.
Well I suspect that as air travel becomes more popular, road travel won't simply stagnate. I bet it'll always be safer, it'll just be higher accident rates on both ends.
 
  • #35
2,685
22
I know slightly off topic:
When you consider the number of car crash deaths that occur each year, and consider how many people each year die due to air crashes, there can't be much in it. The only difference is, a high number dying all at once is better for the media to put out there as opposed to putting each pile up that occurs on the front page. At the end of the day, regardless of how a person / people die it is a tragedy. Yet the media only care about what sells and gets ratings.

Saying that, I certainly wouldnt expect, or want every crash plastered all over the news and papers. However I think the media should hold back a bit before making wild claims before the facts come out with an air crash, or over hyping the situation, putting false doubts about air travel safety into peoples minds.

WRT 'traffic levels', the sky is pretty crowded as it is, anyone whos stood around a major airport at a busy period sees just how close aircraft can get. However, I don't believe there could be mutch more congestion in the sky in regards to flight corridors and even with an increase, commercial aircraft have one major advantage over cars: their collision avoidance system. I've been in th cockpit of a few aircraft and the pilot has shown a screen with a number of various other aircraft cruising within a matter of miles of ourselves. If the aircraft get to close, the system gives advice and warnings in order to remove any threat posed.

Jared
 
Last edited:
  • #36
Vanadium 50
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
2019 Award
25,085
8,173
:rofl: I'm pretty sure the OP means planes in the air that fall out of the air before the pilot intended to actually land them, thereby hitting the land with something other than landing gear.
Fair enough. But under this criterion, the worst disaster involving airplanes (Tenerife, 1977) was not a crash. Almost 600 people died when two 747's collided on the ground.
 
  • #37
2,985
15
WRT 'traffic levels', the sky is pretty crowded as it is, anyone whos stood around a major airport at a busy period sees just how close aircraft can get. However, I don't believe there could be mutch more congestion in the sky in regards to flight corridors and even with an increase, commercial aircraft have one major advantage over cars: their collision avoidance system. I've been in th cockpit of a few aircraft and the pilot has shown a screen with a number of various other aircraft cruising within a matter of miles of ourselves. If the aircraft get to close, the system gives advice and warnings in order to remove any threat posed.

Jared
Actually, the skies are not that crowded, and the only time you have to worry about other aircraft is at takeoff and departure. During cruise, you see a few aircraft pass by every once in a while. You have to understand, a controlled airport with a tower does not mean it also has a radar. Just because you are talking to the tower, does not mean they have a radar screen tracking you. Some airports just use visual tracking.
 
  • #38
4,465
72
Well not everybody is convinced of that "big sky - small air plane" - theory, so TCAS was invented minimizing the chance of a mid air collision, although even that isn't monkey proof when people make mistakes.

TCAS will be replaced by http://www.eurocontrol.int/msa/public/subsite_homepage/homepage.html [Broken] which should enhance safety once more.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #39
RonL
Gold Member
1,097
215
I wonder at what point the amount of air traffic will start to reduce the safety of air travel closer to motor vehicles? I expect that the number of other vehicles on the road in close proximity to your vehicle has a lot to do with chances of collision. Of course, it's also a bit harder to get a pilot's license and people watch them a lot more carefully to make sure they aren't doing stupid things like drinking before flying and gabbing on the cell phone and putting on makeup while lighting a cigarette and eating something from some fast food joint when they're supposed to be steering.
You forgot to mention suckling babies, while driving and talking on the phone:surprised

As andre mentioned avoidance systems are going to play a major role in our future transportation methods. I think with computer control and electric power systems increasing in efficiency, as they are, we might not be too far from personal air cars.
 
  • #40
2,685
22
Cyrus, I would be very interested in a link providing evidence for your 'visual tracking' method for major airports. I am a private pilot and understand how airports and radar work and no, not all airfields have radar, particularly the smaller ones, however I am yet to find amajor airport or any airport dealing in commercial aircraft that has no radar facility.
I suppose you could say I was a bit vague and didn't specify only commercial, but then again at no point did I say anything about an aircraft definitely being on radar by an airport, I simply mentioned that large aircraft at major airports have the TCAS system to help prevent collisions.
I also I didn't say the skies are crowded, I simply stated the current flight corridors are. There are a lot of aircraft using these areas. That excludes any private/light aircraft operating in the area.

Jared
 
  • #41
mgb_phys
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
7,774
13
Here are fatality rates per billion passenger miles:
Train: .88
Plane: .87
Car: 11.7
On the rate/billion miles the space shuttle comes out as a very safe form of transport and the safest place in the world to be is onboard MIR.
If you count plane fatalities per mile travelled on the ground (ie crashes while on the runway) then flying comes out as dangerous as F1 car racing.

Otherwise, you'd come to the nonsensical conclusion that you have no chance whatsoever of ever dying on a Southwest Airlines flight (for example).
Southwest's only fatality was a kid in a car when a plane overshot the runway - so that means you are safer on the plane than driving to the airport.
 
  • #42
2,685
22
I said take off and landing, as to me that is part of the flight. However, I did not want to include the taxi/parking phases etc., as you could argue that unless it is a fault with the aircraft, then it is not something that can be blamed on the aircraf design/manufacture. I hope you understand me as I can't find the words for what I wanted right now. A tug backing into an aircraft is not an aircrash is it, thats a dozy tug driver. I was more interested in things which occured due to pilot error, manufacturing problems - design. Two aircraft colliding on the ground is a tuff one call, but to me that's just two pilots being plonkers. I personnally would be looking for incidents occuring from the start of the take off run to the point where they are safely stopped/taxiing* on the runway after landing.

(* is that how you spell it?)

Jared
 
  • #43
russ_watters
Mentor
19,781
6,180
On the rate/billion miles the space shuttle comes out as a very safe form of transport and the safest place in the world to be is onboard MIR.
MIR is a destination, not a transport. The space shuttle, no, though. A space shuttle mission goes about 5 million miles, there have been something like 150 flights, and 14 deaths. That's 10.5 per billion.
If you count plane fatalities per mile travelled on the ground (ie crashes while on the runway) then flying comes out as dangerous as F1 car racing.
I doubt that.
 

Related Threads on Is There An Aircraft That Has Never Crashed?

  • Poll
  • Last Post
Replies
3
Views
2K
Replies
1
Views
2K
Replies
3
Views
562
  • Last Post
2
Replies
37
Views
12K
  • Last Post
Replies
11
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
12
Views
7K
  • Last Post
Replies
10
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
9
Views
3K
Replies
25
Views
3K
Top